After playing out a disappointing draw against Delhi, Kerala will play Bengal in their second match in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season. Kerala were well and truly on top against Delhi but everything changed on day four as Delhi batsman started to counter attack on the slow Thumba pitch against a spin attack consisting of left-arm spinners Karaparambil Monish, Sijomon Joseph and off-spinner Jalaj Saxena.
The team will be happy with the return of Sanju Samson after the national duties and, he will be looking to score big runs to get his confidence going after warming the benches in the dugout of Team India for 6 T20I matches without playing a game.
Saxena continued his good form in Thumba, where he has taken 49 wickets including four five-wicket hauls, and he will be looking to continue this performance against the strong Bengal batting line-up. Sandeep Warrier once again did a fine job with the new ball as did K M Asif from the other end on his first class debut. But Sijomon Joseph and Monish had a bad outing in the second innings when the Delhi batsman decided to counter-attack them. Akshay Chandran could replace either of them against Bengal.
Kerala’s batsmen piled up runs after winning the toss against Delhi, with Robin Uthappa making a statement-evoking century on his First-Class debut for Kerala after being in poor touch during the limited-overs leg. Skipper Sachin Baby continued his good run from Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy to Ranji Trophy by scoring a ton himself and, with Sanju Samson Coming back, Kerala batting line-up will only get bolstered.
On the other hand, Bengal will be starting their 2019-2020 Ranji Trophy campaign with this match. The Bengal side boasts of experienced players like Ashok Dinda, Manoj Tiwary and Captain Abhimanyu Easwaran, who is in contention for an India call-up. They will miss services of keeper Wriddhiman Saha, as he sustained a fracture in his right hand during India’s first day-night Test match at Eden Gardens against Bangladesh.
Bengal had roped in VVS Laxman as their batting consultant and he spent a week with the team after its disappointing season in limited-overs by not qualifying into the knock-outs of Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament.
Thumba is generally slow and supportive for the spinners. The team winning the toss will look to bat first and post a huge total.
Sachin Baby (capt), P Rahul, Jalaj Saxena, Robin Uthappa, Vishnu Vinod, Rohan Prem, Salman Nizar, Mohammed Azharudeen, Akshay Chandran, Sijomon Joseph, Sandeep Warrier, K M Asif, Basil Thampi, M D Nidheesh, Rohan Kunnunmel, S Midhun.
Abhimanyu Easwaran (capt), Sudip Chatterjee, Manoj Tiwary, Anushtup Majumder, Shreevats Goswami, Abhishek Raman, Arnab Nandi, Ashok Dinda, Ritwik Roy Chowdhury, Ishan Porel, Pradipta Pramanik, Shahbaz Ahmed, Mukesh Kumar, Koushik Ghosh, B Amit.
Abhimanyu Easwaran: This season will be crucial for Bengal captain Easwaran to impress the selectors as Prithvi Shaw has returned with a double hundred in his first Ranji Trophy match after the ban. In 53 first-class matches, Easwaran has scored 4109 runs at an average of 48.91 including 13 hundreds and 17 fifties.
Sachin Baby: With a score of 155 against Delhi in the first innings of the opening match of this Ranji Season, Baby will be looking to perform consistently in longer format. Baby’s issue in first-class cricket has been his inconsistency as his mediocre average would suggest, and he would hope to improve on that count by being among the runs.