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Venugopala Rao in focus

MUMBAI, NOV. 24. Y. Venugopala Rao, who has scored runs aplenty in the last 10 months, will be in focus when Andhra takes on the defending champion and host Mumbai in their four-day Elite Group `A' third round Ranji Trophy match here from Thursday.

With a career aggregate of 3406 runs including 10 centuries and 15 half-centuries in domestic cricket and good performance against Madhya Pradesh in the first round (he did not play against Delhi in the second), the 22-year-old Rao will be keen to show his prowess against Mumbai, for whom this could be a make-or mar contest as far as reaching the knock-out stage is concerned. Both the teams have two points from two matches.

Somasundar is skipper

Sujith Somasundar has been pitchforked into captaincy as Karnataka makes a desperate attempt to reorganise itself in its Elite Group `A' contest against Madhya Pradesh in Bangalore. Somasundar has stepped in for J. Arun Kumar, who has been dropped from the squad. MP will be keen to add to the host's problems. Karnataka is yet to open its points tally from two matches while MP has two points from same number of matches.

Good contest in offing

A good contest is on the cards when Delhi meets Railways in their Elite Group `A' clash in Delhi. The absence of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, who slammed two double centuries in as many appearances against Railways, will not make much of a difference to Delhi as it has in its ranks Ajay Jadeja, Akash Chopra, Mithun Manhas and Shikhar Dhawan, who are all in fine nick.

Its bowling department too is strengthened by the return of Amit Bhandari. Former champion Railways believes that it has the men to do the job though it will miss Murali Kartik. Delhi has four points from two while Railways has two from two.

Bengal with four points from two matches will meet Gujarat (two from two) in their Elite Group `A' tie in Kolkata.

Hyderabad optimistic

Host Hyderabad is optimistic of a change in fortunes when it clashes with Maharashtra in their second round Elite Group `B' contest. Trounced by Tamil Nadu in the Ranji opener at Chennai, Hyderabad has dropped A. Nandakishore and D. Vinay Kumar for this match. The onus, however, is on Maharashtra to make amends after conceding first innings lead to Baroda in its opening match. With the remaining four matches also to be played at home, Hyderabad has reasons to feel confident.

In the other Elite Group `B' contests, host Punjab will take on Baroda while Uttar Pradesh will meet Assam at Kanpur.

Plate matches: Kerala vs Orissa (Kerala); Bihar vs J & K (Bihar); HP vs Saurashtra (HP); Haryana vs Goa (Haryana); Vidarbha vs Tripura (Nagpur); Services vs Rajasthan (Delhi).

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