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Yuvraj Singh to boost Punjab

Mumbai: The availability of Yuvraj Singh has given a big boost to Punjab's hopes ahead of their five-day elite division Ranji Trophy semi-final clash against hosts and holders Mumbai starting Friday.

'It's great news for us. It is very good for him (Yuvraj) also to get the chance to play in the semis. He is in good form,' said Punjab captain Dinesh Mongia on Thursday.

Yuvraj was released from the Indian squad on Thursday following a request from Punjab team management.

But Mumbai still seem to hold the edge due to their superb show in the league phase and familiarity with the pitch at the Wankhede Stadium.

Punjab would depend on Yuvraj, captain Mongia, Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Ravneet Ricky and Pankaj Dharmani to put up a big score.

Mumbai are keen to bridge the two-month gap between the league and knock-out phase and regain their momentum. 'We have been practising regularly since the conclusion of the league phase. It is important to regain the momentum at the earliest,' Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit said.

The hosts too have been bolstered by the return of speedster Avishkar Salvi and captain Sairaj Bahutule, who missed a considerable part of the campaign due to injuries.

Meanwhile, Railways, with a full-strength squad at their disposal, start as clear favourites against Hyderabad in another semi-final in New Delhi starting Friday.

Led by Sanjay Bangar, the Railways have always been a force at home and given the recent form of their batsmen, Hyderabad bowlers would be in for a struggle on the placid Karnail Singh Stadium track.

The only experienced campaigners in the Hyderabad ranks are Daniel Manohar and N.P. Singh, but coach Rajesh Yadav said they won't be overawed by any opposition.

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