Ranji Trophy: Kerala looks to extend winning streak

The threat of rain looms large. But given fair weather conditions, Kerala will look forward to extend its winning streak as it lock horns with Jammu & Kashmir in the Group B Ranji Trophy match starting here on Wednesday.

Jalaj Saxena has been one of the most consistent performers for Kerala this season.   -  Special Arrangement

The threat of rain looms large. But given fair weather conditions, Kerala will look forward to extend its winning streak as it lock horns with Jammu & Kashmir in the Group B Ranji Trophy match starting here on Wednesday.

The St. Xavier’s -KCA cricket ground in Thumba with sea-soil as its base, should permit play even if showers delay the start of the four-day encounter. And perhaps, this will be also what the home team will be yearning for as it attempts for its third win in four matches.

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Though having drawn in the toughest pool of the premier tournament, what has helped the Kerala campaign so far has been the outstanding contribution delivered by its outstation professional in Jalaj Saxena.

The fine all-rounder that he is, Saxena has been contributing with both the bat and ball. And as such, the team management will once again be looking forward to this Indore-born to play the lead role along side the likes of skipper Sachin Baby, Rohan Prem and Sanju V. Samon.

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The injury to left-arm spinner K. Monish too has been somewhat overcome by the home team with the induction of young Sijomon Joseph, who though lacking experience did prove himself to be a match winner against Team Rajasthan.

However, what could hit Kerala badly is the absence of injured Mohammed Azharuddeen, who besides being the first-choice wicket-keeper has all along been a sound bat at No. 7 or 8. His place is now quite likely to be taken by Nikhilesh Surendran. Kerala has a tally of 12 points from three matches and is currently placed third in the group.

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Jammu & Kashmir after a sound start against Rajasthan, a match in which it took the first innings lead, has been experiencing a definite slide, losing both the Saurashtra and champions Gujarat.

Now at the sixth-place in the table, the side will on the lookout to improve its showing in a big way. Statistics of the past does show of Jammu & Kashmir win against the home side, inspired by a winning spell by its captain Parvez Rasool in Perinthalmana a couple of years ago.

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And undoubtedly, Rasool will be one to watch here along with Shubham Khajuria and Mohammed Mudhasir The trio has been performing reasonably well all through the current season but has been lacking support from the rest. Should the others too pick up the threads as well, the visitors will be able to push Kerala to the hilt on a pitch will looks certain to take to the turn from the second day.

The teams

Kerala (from): Sachin Baby (captain), Sanju V. Samson, Jalaj Saxena, Vinshu Vinod, Rohan Prem, Sandeep Warrier, M.D. Nidheesh, Arun Karthick, Sijomon Joseph, K.M. Asif, Akshay Chandran, Basil Thampi, Fabid Farooq, Nikhilesh Surendran (wicket-keeper) and Salman Nair.

Jammu & Kashmir (from): Parvez Rasool (captain), Ahmed Omar Banday, Shubham Kajuria, Pranav Gupta, Ian Dev Singh, Aaquib Nazir, Chouhan,Manik Gupta, Bandeep Singh, Ram Dayal, Aamir Aziz, Mohammed Mudhasir, Samiullah Beigh, Rohit Sharma, Asif Khan, , Mehjoor Ali and Umar Nazir.