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    Ranji Trophy, round 3: Delhi, UP aim to extend leads

    New Delhi: The third round of the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season gets underway across the country on Saturday, with eight teams having posted outrights wins so far. With several others languishing at the bottom of their respective groups, the onus will be on senior players to try and inspire their sides to better performances and more points. Here's a look at the Group B matches starting November 17. Delhi v Baroda at Delhi: With an outright win over Odisha in round two, familiarity of the Feroz Shah Kotla and the return of Ashish Nehra and Rajat Bhatia, hosts Delhi are the favoured side for this marquee clash in Group B. Baroda, without a win in two matches, enter the match still missing Irfan Pathan but with the confidence of six points in two outings. Baroda was dealt further blow as they will also be missing their skipper Yusuf Pathan who had sustained a finger injury and has been ruled out of this game.Delhi bounced back from defeat to Uttar Pradesh with a clinical win over Odisha, with Mithun Manhas standing tall above the rest with a fine century – one which he rated as one of the best of his career. Their top order is still to come good, with starts of 39, 6 and 5 before Shikhar Dhawan and Unmukt Chand put on 82 for 0 in the ten-wicket win over Odisha. Dhawan’s return will be a boost but consistency is needed from the talented Chand and Manan and Mohit Sharma. With the ball, Sumit Narwal and Pawan Suyal have been effective and economical. The return of Nehra and Bhatia from injuries gives Delhi control and incisiveness with the ball. Baroda will play their first away match after two games at the Motibagh Stadium. They have not been dominant but still managed to secure first-innings points against Karnataka and Vidarbha. Four batsmen have scored centuries, but like Delhi the openings have been poor - 14, 0 and 6 – which puts pressure on the middle order early on. Fortunately for Baroda, three of the top four have reached three figures. The bowling has been workmanlike rather than spectacular, but that has been the case with Baroda teams for some time now. Delhi are tied with UP on seven points, with Baroda on six. The last time these two sides met here in 2011-12, Delhi won by ten wickets. Uttar Pradesh v Karnataka at Meerut: In the absence of their two leading fast bowlers, Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun, Karnataka are the underdogs against Uttar Pradesh – lead by Suresh Raina - in Meerut. UP sit at the top of Group B with seven points courtesy a six-wicket win over Delhi in round one, while Karnataka have four from two outings. UP’s batsmen are in good nick - young Mukul Dagas has two centuries, and Tanmay Srivastava and Piyush Chawla big hundreds of their own – and the bowlers were exemplary in the win over a star-studded Delhi. In contrast, Karnataka are missing the injured Vinay and Mithun. In Vinay’s absence, allrounder Stuart Binny will captain the team. Karnataka failed to take three points from Baroda, but did so superbly against Tamil Nadu thanks to an excellent partnership between Ganesh Satish and Muralidharen Gautam that took their team from 289 for 5 to a target of 539.UP’s trip to Pune proved frustrating, with Raina and coach Venkatesh Prasad slamming the local curator for the nature of the pitch. Raina and Prasad both gave the example of the surface in Ghaziabad in round one, saying that was the kind of surfaces host associations should prepare. Whether or not the curator in Meerut, hosting its first match of the season, has been given that brief remains to be seen. Tamil Nadu v Maharasthra at Chennai: If the pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium plays like it did in round two, then expect a dull, run-filled draw. This match in Chennai pits the batting might of Tamil Nadu – boasting four Test-experienced batsmen in the line-up – against the power of Maharashtra, coming off a total of 764 for 6 against UP. TN would have fancied their chances of taking points off Karnataka in their previous game at this same venue, having scored 538 for 4, but ended up with just one after Satish and Gautam played the innings of their careers. The surface offered a bit of turn but such was the ease of the batsmen that it just required a little focus and then those in form could check in for bed and breakfast. Maharashtra played their first match on a road of surface in Pune, and have just one point to show for it after UP replied with 669 for 7. Maharashtra’s 764 for 6 spanned 186 overs, with Kedhar Jadhav smacking 327 off 312 balls and captain Rohit Motwani making 147, apart from three half-centuries. Motwani declared only after he was sure UP had been completely batted out of the match, but the draw in Pune has thrown much criticism on home boards rolling out batting strips. Considering the fact that TN batted big and then failed to claim three points, it will be interesting to see what kind of track the curator unrolls on Saturday. If it stays the same, good luck to the bowlers in Chennai. Haryana v Odisha at Lahli: After losing to Delhi last week, Odisha play their second match in North India against last year’s semi-finalists Haryana, who have yet to get a point on the board. Odisha’s first match at home was washed out, and at the Feroz Shah Kotla their batting failed to apply pressure on Delhi. Their first-innings total of 143 was less than what Manhas made and in the second innings three batsmen failed to build on starts. Only one batsman, 21-year-old Govind Podder, has reached fifty. Odisha will hope their fortunes changed in Lahli, but conditions and climate indicate another low-scoring match. Haryana lost their first match against Vidarbha and did not feature in round two. In that one game their batsmen were at fault in being bowled out for 55 on day one, from which Haryana were unable to really challenge the opposition. More will be needed from Haryana, though they will hope to exploit the chilly conditions with a more well-rounded bowling attack.