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Ranji Trophy: Unbeaten Kartaka favourites

Hubli, Jan 4: With three wins in a row, title holders Kartaka would be looking to ride the success wave when they take on Jammu and Kashmir in a Group A league match of the Ranji Trophy cricket tourment starting here on Monday.

The visitors, whose claim to fame this season has been their stunning and maiden win over multiple champions Mumbai in the opening fixture, have somewhat tapered off since, drawing two games and losing heavily to Tamil du in their other outings prior to arriving here.

In sharp contrast, Kartaka, ably led by seamer Viy Kumar, have put in strong all–round performances to remain unbeaten and head the group.

Though without star batsman Lokesh Rahul who is away on tiol duty in Australia, Kartaka have found match–winners in other players, notably pacemen Srith Aravind (18 wickets) and Abhimanyu Mithun (11), besides Viy Kumar (16) himself has been outstanding.

Also, when occasion demanded, like against Bengal, Kartaka have batted deep and, in fact, their only centurion this season has been leg–spinner Shreyas Gopal, who scored 145 in Kolkata during his record 148–run partnership for the last wicket with Aravind.

On the other hand, Jammu and Kashmir have not displayed an equal measure of consistency, be it in batting which has fared better or bowling where they have struggled to take 20 wickets, except against Mumbai.

Under the circumstances, Kartaka, fresh from Christmas and New Year break of two weeks, will start odds–on favourites while the visitors, who made the long haul from Kanpur to Hubli after their weather–affected draw against Uttar Pradesh, will have to raise their game to even be on pace with the hosts, much less win. IANS

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Ankur Kalita

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