The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2023-24 has reached its business end, with the 8 top-performing teams across five groups booking their place in the quarter-finals that are set to be played on November 2, Thursday.
While Mumbai will take on Baroda first up, Punjab will lock horns with Uttar Pradesh, followed by Delhi vs Vidarbha, and the quarter-final stage will end with the Battle Royale between Sanju Samson's Kerala and Riyan Parag's Assam.
Captain Riyan marshalls his troops
It has been a particularly fruitful campaign for Assam, who became the last team to qualify after beating Bengal in the pre-quarterfinal on October 31. Their skipper and Royals all-rounder Riyan Parag is not just leading from the front, but dominating the run charts with a staggering 490 runs from eight innings at an average of 122.50 and a blistering strike rate of 139. In the process, he has also unleashed a record-breaking spree of seven consecutive half-centuries, setting a new world record in T20 cricket.
Riyan's red-hot form with the bat has drawn high praise from the cricketing fraternity, including from his Royals teammate Jason Holder, who is currently training at the Royals' High-Performance Centre in Nagpur.
Jase 🤝 Parag! 🔥💗 pic.twitter.com/2dgfMBDtbu— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) October 31, 2023
Riyan Parag is the one-man army of Assam. Defeating Bengal to reach the SMAT quarter-finals is no mean feat. Well done, young man 👏👏— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) October 31, 2023
Sanju vs Riyan - the Battle Royale
Meanwhile, Royals skipper Sanju Samson has also been on the prowl, leading Kerala to the top of the points table in Group B and directly entering the quarter-finals. Sanju's men will now be faced with a hungry Assam side that is being led by an equally hungry Riyan. Interestingly, the last time these two teams clashed in the league stage of the tournament, Assam emerged victorious by 2 wickets with Riyan finishing unbeaten on 57. The Kerala side features two more Royals KM Asif and Abdul Basith, who have contributed to their team's table-topping performance with both bat and ball.
Mumbai's Yashasvi Jaiswal, Delhi's Navdeep Saini, Uttar Pradesh's Dhruv Jurel will also be in action for their respective teams in the quarter-finals.