Valsad: A riveting, two-month long group phase of the Ranji Trophy has set the stage for the knockout rounds – eight teams remain in the fold as the 86th edition of India’s oldest cricket competition enters its quarter-finals. Four former champions – Gujarat, Bengal, Karnataka and Saurashtra – are joined by four competitors eyeing a maiden title in Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha and Goa as the business end of the Ranji Trophy 2019/20 season commences from 20 February. The 38-team league stage, split in three divisions, provided for a gripping couple of months. Gujarat carried out their unbeaten run while rubbing shoulders against the toughest competitors – their group campaign highlighted by a four-wicket victory over defending champions Vidarbha at Surat. Five wins out of eight saw them emerge clear winners in the Elite division (three points ahead of Bengal), although they did concede the first innings lead in all three of their drawn rubbers, against Bengal, Rajasthan and Delhi.