Rajkot, Feb 28: The bowling strengths of hosts Saurashtra and Gujarat will be put to test on what is likely to be a flat track when the two sides battle it out in the first semifinal of the Ranji Trophy, starting here on Saturday (February 29).
The Jaydev Unadkat-led side runs into a strong Gujarat team, which has built its momentum slowly through the tournament. But last year's runner-up, Saurashtra will look to cash in on the home advantage with an all-round display.
Gujarat comes into the game after thrashing Goa by a whopping 464 runs, while Saurashtra made the grade, courtesy a massive first-innings lead against Andhra.
Gujarat skipper Parthiv Patel struck form at the right time with a superb century in the quarterfinal after having endured indifferent outing in the league phase and will be keen to carry on the momentum.
All their other batsmen -- be it Bhargav Merai (621 runs), Manpreet Juneja (449 runs) or Samit Gohel have runs under their belt and would be expected to play their parts. Gujarat opener Priyank Panchal has endured a lean run by his own standard and would be raring to find form at the SCA Stadium here.
Pacers Roosh Kalaria (33 wickets), who also excelled with the bat in the quarter-final, and Arzan Nagaswalla (34 wickets) have done exceedingly well but it will be a challenge for them to bowl on a placid track.
Spinner Siddharth Desai is expected to play a crucial role, especially on the fourth and fifth days. For Saurashtra, coached by former India pacer Karsan Ghavri, skipper Unadkat has led from the front by picking up 55 wickets, the most by any bowler this season.
He will, however, need support from his teammates. Spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja will have to step up his game if Saurashtra hope to restrict a strong Gujarat batting line-up. On the batting front, Sheldon Jackson (680 runs) and Arpit Vasavada (515 runs) have been their mainstays. But the likes of Harvik Desai, Snell Patel have under-performed and need to give the hosts a solid start.
It will thus be a battle of equals as the teams match in each and each department and whoever handles pressure better will advance to the final. The teams will also have the option of DRS, which makes its debut in the tournament.
Both the sides will be given four referrals per innings however the technology will not have Hawk-Eye and Ultra Edge, two key components of the DRS used in international games.
Saurashtra: Jaydev Unadkat (Captain), Sheldon Jackson, Kamlesh Makwana, Arpit Vasavada, Chirag Jani, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Harvik Desai, Snell Patel (WK), Kishan Parmar, Avi Barot (WK), Prerak Mankad, Samarth Vyas, Vishwaraj Jadeja, Kushang Patel, Chetan Sakariya, Parth Bhut.
Gujarat: Prathiv Patel (Captain), Priyank Panchal, Manprit Juneja, Chirag Gandhi Bhargav Merai, Rujul Bhatt, Dhruv Raval, Kshitij Patel, Roosh Kalaria, Chintan Gaja Arzan Nagwasvalla, Smit Gohil, Siddharth Desai, Tejas Patel.