Maharashtra breathed a sigh of relief as in-form batsman Vijay Zol batted fluently in the nets at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday morning.

He passed the fitness test and declared his availability for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against 40-time winner Mumbai from Wednesday.

Fresh from the under-19 Asia Cup triumph with a century in the final against Pakistan, Zol probably would not have allowed a sore groin to prevent him from taking the field for his first Ranji Trophy match against a champion team.

Success story

The rise of the 19-year-old left-hander has been the biggest success story for Maharashtra cricket in recent years; Zol has virtually stolen the thunder from other consistent batsmen such as this season’s top scorer in the tournament, Harshad Khadiwale (930 runs at 56.19) and the second highest run-getter Kedar Jadhav (863 at 86.30).

Others such as Sangram Atitkar (451), Ankit Bawne (408) and skipper Rohit Motwani (370, 27 catches and four stumpings) have also been very impressive.

Zol has an aggregate of 410 at 54.95 in eight innings with an unbeaten 200 in his tournament debut against Tripura last October.

With such big contributions from its young batsmen, Maharashtra won four matches and topped Group C.

Jadhav scored four centuries and Khadiwale three. Left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar has been a pillar of strength in the bowling department, taking 30 wickets; he has 101 in first class competition.

Injury-hit

While Maharashtra’s confidence stems from its all-round excellence, the defending champion, which began the season with Sachin Tendulkar in its ranks against Haryana, has been hit by injuries and lack of form.

It has tried 22 players and managed to make the knockout only because of left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla’s 11-wicket haul in the last league match against Gujarat at Valsad with support from another left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar. Skipper Zaheer Khan said the team was in transition stage and yet had qualified for the knockout.

The pitch is expected to offer purchase to the seamers initially and thereafter to the spinners.

The teams (from):

Mumbai: Zaheer Khan (capt.), Kaustubh Pawar, Aditya Tare, Wasim Jaffer, Abhishek Nayar, Suryakumar Yadav, Vinit Indulkar, Iqbal Abdulla, Vishal Dabholkar, Shardul Thakur, Javed Khan, Sarvesh Damle, Sagar Kerkar, Nikhil Patil (jr), Saurabh Netravalkar.

Maharashtra: Rohit Motwani (capt.), Harshad Khadiwale, Chirag Khurana, Kedar Jadhav, Sangram Atitkar, Ankit Bawne, Anupam Sanklecha, Akshay Darekar, Pushkaraj Chavan, Samad Fallah, Shrikant Mundhe, Domnic Joseph Muthuswamy, Vijay Zol, Jay Pande, Shamsuzama Kazi.

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