At the end of the first three rounds of the league phase of Ranji Trophy 2016-17, defending champions Mumbai are at the top of the Group A table while Jharkhand is leading Group B. In Group C, Haryana hold the No 1 spot.Group A:
With the inclusion of Chhattisgarh there are 10 teams in Group C and nine each in Group A and Group B. On finishing the 2015-16 season at the No 1 and No 2 spots in Group C, Saurashtra and Jharkhand were elevated to Group B for the ongoing season. Haryana from Group A and Andhra from Group B were relegated to Group C for the 2016-17 season.
In their first game of the season against, Tamil Nadu in Lahili, the Aditya Tare-led Mumbai were without their top-run getter of the previous season – Shreyas Iyer and highest wicket-taker – Shardul Thakur as well as their key lower middle-order batsman – Siddhesh Lad. With three debutants – Armaan Jaffer, pacer Tushar Deshpande and left-arm spinner Vijay Gohil in the team they beat the opposition to kick-start the season with a win.
While seniors - Abhishek Nayar, Aditya Tare and Dhawal Kulkarni played vital roles to help the team grab the top spot, Deshpande too performed with the ball and the bat. The youngster claimed a four-for on debut and also played a vital knock against Madhya Pradesh to help seize a first innings lead. With two centuries in three games Akhil Herwadkar was instrumental in claiming first innings lead against Baroda and MP.
Gujarat, who have played only two matches so far hold the second position in the group. The Parthiv Patel-led team were helped to a first innings lead against Baroda by double centurion Manpreet Juneja in their first encounter while a superb bowling performance by Mehul Patel and Rush Kalaria helped the team seal victory against Railways.
With nine points from two matches Bengal are tied on points with Gujarat but are at the No 3 spot on the net run rate. Abhimanyu Easwaran starred in Bengal’s game against UP with centuries (142 and 110*) in both innings. His superb knock in the first innings along with skipper Manoj Tiwary’s ton helped the team set up the first innings lead. In their second game, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ohja and debutant A Kuila comprising attack helped beat Punjab compressively.
MP are at No 4 with eight points, while TN are at No 5 with seven points and Punjab at No 6 on net run rate with seven points. All three teams have played three matches each; won one, lost one and drawn one.
UP, Railways and Baroda make up the bottom three spots and are yet to win a game. Irfan Pathan-led Baroda have played only two matches and garnered two points from them. Group B:
With 13 points from three matches with two wins, Jharkhand are leading the points table in their group. Having finished second in Group C in the 2015-16 season, they have been elevated to Group B for the ongoing season.
Led by Varun Aaron, Jharkhand registered a comprehensive win against Maharashtra in their opening game of the season. While the captain –led attack kept the opposition in check, Kaushal Singh’s century in the second season helped set up the game for the team. However, they conceded the first innings to Karnataka in their second game in a drawn match. In their last outing, they cantered to victory against Team Rajasthan. Highest wicket-taker of 2015-16, Shahbaz Nadeem picked seven wickets in the first innings and five in the second to set-up the match for his team.
At No 2 are Karnataka, who after claiming a first innings lead against Jharkhand beat Delhi by an innings and 160 runs to pick a bonus points. While pace attack of Abhimanyu Mithun and S Arvind were the oppositions undoing in the first innings, spinners K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal dominated in the second innings.
With a win, a loss and a draw, Delhi and Team Rajasthan have eight points each. However, due to a better net run rate, Delhi hold the No 3 spot while Team Rajasthan are at No 5.
Delhi’s middle-order bat Rishabh Pant, who scored 308 against Maharashtra to help the team to a draw and take one point from the game tops the highest run-getters list with 487 runs. Saurashtra skipper, Jaydev Shah who is at No 2 with 474 runs has played vital knocks of 193 and 217 against Team Rajasthan and Maharashtra to help the side to first innings lead.
Having gathered seven points from two games, Odisha are at No 5. With six points each Saurashtra and Vidarbha are No 6 and 7 respectively, followed by Maharashtra and Assam. Vidarbha have only played two games so far. The bottom four are yet to register a win.
Three of Maharashtra’s four points are on the basis of their first innings game against Delhi where the skipper scored an unbeaten 351 while Ankeet Bawane scored 251 not out in a record unbroken 594-run stand for the third wicket. Their partnership is second-highest stand in first-class cricket. Since they declared the innings, they fell 30 runs short of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene’s world record partnership of 624 runs.
Assam have only one point from the drawn match against Assam as they have lost their other two games. Group C:
Under the leadership of Mohit Sharma, Haryana are topping the Group C table with 15 points from two wins and a first innings lead from a drawn match. After securing the first innings lead in their rain-truncated first game against Services, they went on to beat Hyderabad and Chhattisgarh. The captain picked a five-for in the second innings of both victories while Harshal Patel complemented him ably. Yuzvendra Chahal set the tone in the first win, Joginder Sharma was instrumental in putting the team in an advantageous position against Chhattisgarh.
Debutants, Chhattisgarh who lost to Haryana, started the season with a win against Tripura and followed up with a first-innings lead against Andhra. Although they are tied on points (nine points) with Tripura, they are at No 2 while Tripura are at No 3 due to a better net run rate.
Tripura pacer, Rana Dutta claimed the first hat-trick of the season in the third round match against Himachal, where they took a first innings lead.
Himachal, Andhra, Hyderabad and J&K follow Tripura in that order and have a win each against their name. The last three – Kerala, Goa and Services are yet to register a win.
Goa captain, Sagun Kamat was the third triple-centurion of the season. His unbeaten 304-run knock helped the team into a commanding position against Services. Services, who are at the bottom of the table have only two points against their name.