Kolkata: On a roll, Karnataka will start favourites against this season's surprise package Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy semifinal beginning Sunday.
The Vinay Kumar-led side, which thrashed Mumbai by an innings and 20 runs enroute to the semis, seems to be peaking at the right time in their quest for a ninth Ranji title and twice in five seasons.
The most significant part of their victory was not letting Mumbai off the hook for once as captain Vinay Kumar became the fourth bowler to claim a hat-trick twice in the tournament's history.
"Definitely beating Mumbai will help us, it will give us the extra cushion. But it's past I can't think much about it. We will take one game at a time. We would like to think this game (semis) rather than thinking about the last game," Kumar said on eve of the semifinal.
After their historic double-treble over two successive seasons, Karnataka could not qualify for the semifinals in the previous two seasons.
"Last season, we reached quarterfinals but the wicket was much difficult to bat, had we won the toss we would have won the game easily," he said about their defeat to Tamil Nadu in Vizag.
"Before that year, we did not qualify maybe by just one or two points. I am very much happy with our progress.
"We have played in this situation many times. We won two Ranji titles in four years, we have the experience. It's all about going there and stick to our strengths."
Both teams have qualified with four outright wins remaining unbeaten and going into the semifinal battle on an Eden Gardens green top, they will be equally matched.
Mayank Agarwal has been the tournament leading run-getter amassing an astounding 1142 runs, but Vidarbha are not far behind in batting ability as left-hander Faiz Fazal (831 runs) will be their answer to the Karnataka opener.
Along with Agarwal, Karnataka have R Samarth who has 643 runs at a healthy 64.30, and Shreyas Gopal who is fresh from a career-best 150 not out against Mumbai.
In bowling also both the sides are evenly-matched with Krishnappa Gowtham as Karnataka's regular wicket-taker while Vidarbha's Akshay Wakhare has 29 in his kitty.
In such a scenario, India pacer Umesh Yadav will provide the edge to Vidarbha, provided he gets a nod from the Board to represent his state ahead of the crucial Test series against South Africa.
Vinay Kumar said toss would play a big role in the game.
"We are ready to bowl in any kind of wicket. Definitely toss would play a big role. It's a five day game. It's not going to be a first innings game definitely and both teams will go for outright wins."
Karnataka have beaten Vidarbha twice, while the other three games ended in a draw.
Karnataka: R Vinay Kumar (captain), Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal, Samarth R, Nischal D, Stuart Binny, C M Gautam, Shreyas Gopal, K Gowtham, Abhimanyu Mithun, S Arvind, Pavan Desphande, J Suchith, Mir Kaunain Abbas, Sharath Srinivas, Ronit More.
Vidarbha: Faiz Fazal (captain), Ganesh Satish, R Sanjay, Wasim Jaffar, Karn Sharma, Salabh Shrivastava, Apoorvva Wankhede (wk), Akshay Wakhare, Akshay Karnewar, Siddesh Wath, Aditya Sarvate, Rajneesh Gurbani, Siddesh Neral, Umesh Yadav and Shubham Kapase.
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