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Ranji Trophy: Yuvraj-led Punjab take on Mumbai in keen contest

High on confidence after a fine start to their campaign which fetched them seven points, visitors Punjab would be keen to put Mumbai under the pump in their Group B second round Ranji Trophy encounter commencing at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday.

Yuvraj Singh-led Punjab go into the game after an innings victory at home over Railways that came about after a strong all round show with their batsmen mustering over 600 runs and their bowlers backing up well.

Four three-figure knocks, including an unbeaten 201 by Gurkeerat Singh Mann who is not available for this game after being selected for the India ODI squad to take on South Africa from October 11, set up the huge total for Punjab.

Their varied bowling attack led by two left arm bowlers - pacer Barinder Singh Sran (6 wickets) in the first innings and spinner Varun Khanna (8 wickets) in the second - then dismissed Railways cheaply in both the innings at Mohali to deliver the knock out blow.

While praising his batting unit, Yuvraj today singled out Barinder Singh as this season's big asset. "Batsmen have been playing for a while now. Manan (Vohra), Mandeep Singh, Jiwanjot Singh - these guys have been doing well for a while - but our biggest strength has been Barinder Singh this year. He bowled really well (in the) last game, real quick," said Yuvraj.

"I see a very good bowling side and I see a unit who are capable of winning the Ranji Trophy," the left-handed batsman said ahead of the game against Mumbai.

Yuvraj conceded that Gurkeerat would be missed, but said he was happy the young batsman "has gone where he deserves to be" (Indian ODI squad, adding Himanshu Chawla is the replacement.

Hosts Mumbai, on the other hand, have made a shaky start to their campaign as they conceded the first innings lead to Andhra for the first time in history in their first round away game at Vizianagaram - after being unable to overhaul a modest total of 244 set up by the hosts by eight runs.

A top-order fold-up against rival right arm pacer Bandaru Ayyappa who got six wickets saw Mumbai slump to 61 for 4 before a determined knock of 86 by Siddesh Lad kept them in the hunt for the first innings lead before he too fell to the same bowler to end their chance of taking the lead.

A far better batting effort is a must if Mumbai are to do well against a penetrative Punjab attack. Mumbai bowlers, led by experienced campaigner Dhawal Kulkarni, did extremely well in the season opener but were let down by the batting line-up which is missing the services of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, who are busy on national duty. Yuvraj, however, noted Mumbai's consistency in the national championship.

"Mumbai has always been a consistent side. Whether they start well or don't, they always land up in the last four. They have won the competition more than 35 times and it's a big opportunity for us to do well here. Punjab has always done well here. "We had a very good start. Got seven points want to capitalise on that," he added. Mumbai skipper Aditya Tare said that conceding the first innings lead hurt him a lot.

"For me, a loss is a loss and I don't care who we lose to. Conceding the first innings is as good as a loss for me, be it any opposition. I am equally hurt regardless of which team we lose to.

"I have told the guys, it's bat vs ball, it's not against any team. We played bad cricket and we have lost, we have to accept it, better ourselves and get over it. It's not about Andhra or J&K or any other team, it's about us," the Mumbai wicket keeper batsman said.

"For me it's all about the attitude. It's about discipline, it's about determination it's about how much you love playing for Mumbai, how much pride you have in playing and winning a match for Mumbai. And if the guys tick those boxes then I think we have a bright team ahead," he quipped.

Tare said the contest would be good. "They are a good team and they have been a strong side. It's going to be a good contest. We have got a good attack," he added.

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