It’s been an interesting Ranji Trophy league phase – as it invariably is. Having matches televised or live-streamed would have made it better, but as things stand, with all but four teams having a single match left only three – Mumbai, Jharkhand and Karnataka – are absolutely certain of a quarterfinal spot. Any of 14 other teams from the remaining 25 could join those three. We’ll know with much more certainty once the ninth round of matches scheduled for December 7 to 10 get completed.

Until then, here is how the chances of each team stack up. That is of course, assuming the BCCI don’t rescind the decision to schedule the two matches affected by the Delhi smog. The scenarios below also don’t account for the possibility of a tied match.

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GROUP A:

© Joshua Veernathan

Mumbai is the only team assured of a quarterfinal spot from Group A. © Joshua Veernathan

ALREADY QUALIFIED: Mumbai are the only team assured of a quarterfinal spot. They have 29 points, and no combination of results can see three teams over-taking them. The fact that next two teams – Tamil Nadu (23 points) and Gujarat (24 points) – have a match against each other works in Mumbai’s favour.

IN THE RACE: Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Bengal.

Gujarat have 24 points, with two matches in hand. A win against either Tamil Nadu or Bengal, with or without a bonus point, will be enough to ensure a spot in the knockouts. Gujarat’s modus operandi, however, involves batting big once and taking the first-innings lead – they have earned first-innings leads in each of their four draws. This safety-first approach will also be enough if Gujarat get first-innings lead points from both games. It could also happen that Gujarat qualify even if they get only one point from both remaining games, but that could potentially involve them in a net run-rate face-off with Tamil Nadu.
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Tamil Nadu have 23 points, with one match in hand. To be masters of their fate, they simply need to win their last match against Gujarat in Belgaum. If they get six – or seven – points in their final match, they are guaranteed a top-three finish. Tamil Nadu could go through even if they lose, but then they will need two things to happen:

1) Gujarat beat Bengal

2) There is no winner in the Bengal-Madhya Pradesh match

The middle results – Tamil Nadu coming away with either three points or one point – will leave things similarly open and dependent on other results, though obviously, the more points Tamil Nadu have, the less their dependence on other results.

Madhya Pradesh have 19 points, with one match in hand. It’s against their old bogey team, Bengal. In 2014-15, Madhya Pradesh made Bengal follow-on and had them eight wickets down but couldn’t finish the job. Denied the victory points, they just failed to qualify for the knockouts then.

This year too, they need victory – preferably with a bonus point. However, they could miss out even if they do that. If Tamil Nadu beat Gujarat, and then Gujarat beat Bengal, both Tamil Nadu and Gujarat will go past Madhya Pradesh’s tally. The most straightforward way for Madhya Pradesh would be to pray that Tamil Nadu get no more than a point against Gujarat – and that of course they win their match.

Punjab have 18 points, and one match in hand. They are technically still in contention, but to have any chance they need to win their final match against Mumbai. Even with a bonus point though, Punjab will have only 25. With Gujarat on 24 having two matches in hand and Tamil Nadu on 23 with one match in hand, they both could end up above Punjab even with draws. Not to speak of Madhya Pradesh with 19 points and Bengal, who have 17 points and two matches in hand. Punjab, in short, are not masters of their fate and need a helping hand for a what would be a surprise top-three finish.

Bengal have 17 points, and two matches in hand. The job ahead is straightforward, though implementing it might not be so simple. They need ideally one win and one first-innings lead at a minimum to breathe easy. It is possible that they could go through with one win and conceding a first-innings lead, but that will mean they need other results to go their way. If they can win both games, Bengal will definitely go through.

IN THE SCRAMBLE: Either of Uttar Pradesh, Railways or Baroda could end up with the wooden spoon, and thus relegation to Group C. The interesting thing is, Railways have finished their matches and sit on 10 points, and the other two will play each other. If UP beat Baroda, it will be straightforward, with Baroda stuck on nine points. If Baroda win, both UP and Railways will be on 10 points, and it will be a close net run-rate fight between the two. If Baroda take the first-innings lead in a draw, Railways will be relegated. If UP take the first-innings lead in a draw, then both Railways and Baroda will be on 10 points with one win each – and Baroda’s net run-rate is a fair bit higher than UP’s.

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GROUP B:

© Wisden India

Karnataka is safe from being knocked out of the top three no matter what happens. © Wisden India

ALREADY QUALIFIED: Both Jharkhand and Karnataka are safe from being knocked out of the top three no matter what happens, with 32 and 30 points respectively.

IN THE RACE: It’s a three-way battle for the one remaining spot, with all of Odisha, Delhi and Maharashtra angling for the final spot.

Odisha have 22 points, which is one more than the 21 each Delhi and Maharashtra have. If one of these three wins their match and the other two don’t, then the winner will go through. The scenarios with points tied for all three are as follow:

a) Odisha win against Jharkhand. Maharashtra and Delhi win with a bonus point against Karnataka and Saurashtra respectively. All three are on 28 points, and all have three wins each.

b) Jharkhand beat Odisha outright. Karnataka and Saurashtra take first-innings leads against Maharashtra and Delhi respectively. All three teams will then be on 22 points, with two wins each.

A subset of these scenarios could have two teams with points and wins tied. The net run-rate is currently with Delhi (+0.586), who are far ahead of Odisha (+0.047) and Maharashtra (-0.119).

If Odisha win with a bonus point then all calculations will be moot and they will be the third team to qualify from Group B.

IN THE SCRAMBLE: There is no scramble. Assam have no matches left and are bottom of the table with just eight points, which means they’ll be going back to Group C after two seasons out of group.

In other words, Vidarbha, Saurashtra or Rajasthan have neither the incentive of qualification, nor the fear of relegation.

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GROUP C:

Kerala face Services in their final match, and need a win with a bonus point. © Wisden India

Kerala face Services in their final match, and need a win with a bonus point. © Wisden India

ALREADY QUALIFIED: No one yet.

IN THE RACE: Hyderabad, Andhra, Haryana, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Goa.

Hyderabad are best placed, with 29 points and two matches in hand. Even a first-innings lead in either match will push them through, which would be a remarkable achievement for a side that looked barely capable of having a first-innings lead all through last season. Hyderabad have benefitted from having S Badrinath and Bharat Arun take charge.

Andhra are currently second on the table and have a match in hand, but it’s a tough one – against Hyderabad. To be sure of qualifying, Andhra need to win. They can qualify with a first-innings lead as long as Haryana don’t win their final match.

Haryana have 25 points – the same as Andhra – but only two wins to Andhra’s three, so they need to win their remaining match against Tripura. There is a chance they could miss out after winning too, if Andhra beat Hyderabad and Hyderabad then beat Tripura in their final match.

Kerala face Services in their final match, and need a win with a bonus point. That will take them to 29, and will mean both Andhra and Haryana have to win their matches to leap past Kerala, and a first-innings lead won’t do. That’s about the only thing in Kerala’s control, though what mental space the side is in given the unsavoury handling of Sanju Samson, their lone international player, remains to be seen.

Himachal Pradesh have always been in the race to qualify without ever going across the line. This time, their chances look dimmer. They have 20 points and a match against Goa – who stunned Andhra in the last round – lined up. Not only do they need to win, but they need to pray for outright defeats for Andhra and Haryana, and no more than a first-innings lead for Kerala.

Goa are in even more ‘dark horse’ territory. They have to win with a bonus point, but that will only take them to 25. They must then hope for Andhra to suffer a very heavy defeat that will affect their net run-rate, and for Haryana to just be defeated outright. Further, Kerala must take no more than a first-innings lead.

Neither of Services, Jammu and Kashmir, Tripura or Chhattisgarh have any chance of finishing in the top two.

With inputs from Manoj Narayan.