Three teams from West Zone look poised to enter the knock-out rounds of the Ranji Trophy tournament at the conclusion of the fifth round of the Elite Division Group 'A' matches on Friday.
Mumbai's overwhelming innings and 108-run victory over Hyderabad at the Mumbai Cricket Association's Bandra-Kurla Complex ground in Mumbai on Friday helped the 37-time winners shoot past fellow-West Zoners Saurashtra and Gujarat and go top of the table with 21 points to their credit.
With three teams each from Group 'A' and 'B' qualifying for the quarter-final rounds, Gujarat and Saurashtra 18 points each -- are all set to join Mumbai unless there's a dramatic change in fortunes.
Mumbai are to travel to Cuttack to clash with Orissa, lying sixth in the eight-team group with 9 points, from December 12 to 15 and then conclude the league engagements by hosting Punjab (lying 7th with 7 points) from December 18 to 21.
Saurashtra plays Delhi (11 points from 5 matches) from December 12 to 15 at home and then Hyderabad (10 points from 5 ties), also at Rajkot, from December 18-21.
Gujarat have matches in hand against cellar outfit Rajasthan, who are facing relegation with only 2 points to their credit, at Jaipur and then against Orissa at Cuttack.
The frontrunners from the seven-team Group 'B' are table toppers Tamil Nadu (15 points from four matches), Uttar Pradesh (14 from 5) and Karnataka (13 from 4).
Tamil Nadu have matches in hand against Baroda (9 points from 4 matches) at Vadodara (Dec 12-15 and Railways (10 from 4) at Chennai (Dec 18-21).
UP have one match against Karnataka, to be held at Bangalore (Dec 12-15) while the latter have an additional game against Maharashtra (4 from 4), also at home, in their clutches.
Andhra, with just three points and an away tie against Baroda in hand, are in danger of being relegated to the Plate division from this group.
Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh lead the respective Plate Division Groups 'A' and 'B' respectively after logging 19 and 18 points respectively ahead of the last round games scheduled for December 12 to 15.
The top two teams from the two groups enter the semi-finals and the winners of the semi-finals, slated to be held from December 18 to 21, will gain the chance to have a shot at the top prize by entering the knock out quarter-finals of the Elite Division.
The quarter-finals are scheduled from December 25 to 28 while the four-day semi-finals and the five-day final are to be held from December 31 and January 7, 2009 respectively.