Two balanced teams in top form. A sporting wicket. Excellent weather. And everything at stake in what is a virtual knockout.

The Ranji Trophy Group-A match, which begins at the Suarashtra Cricket Association Ground (C) here on Thursday promises plenty. Both Kerala and Madhya Pradesh have played excellent cricket these past two weeks and have 13 points each.

Former champion Gujarat and minnow Meghalaya have been at the receiving end against them and have been knocked out.

Not much difference

There is little to choose between Kerala and Madhya Pradesh at the moment. They both thrashed Meghalaya by an innings to pocket that extra point and have prevailed over a much stronger Gujarat, though in contrasting situations.

Kerala pulled off a thrilling chase when it beat Gujarat, reaching the daunting target with six overs to spare, scoring at six an over. Opener Rohan Kunnummal, who is having an incredible run having notched up three hundreds here in as many innings, was the one who Kerala took home, with captain Sachin Baby also playing a superb knock.

Vishnu Vinod and Vathsal Govind too have made centuries. Kerala’s batting has been so good it hasn’t missed Sanju Samson, who is on national duty. The bowlers too have done a great job.

If it was a fiery spell from Basil Thampi that turned the match against Gujarat around on the third afternoon, it was his new-ball partner M.D. Nidheesh who did most of the damage in the first innings.

Spinners Jalaj Saxena and Sijomon Joseph too were amongst the wickets against Gujarat, while teenaged seamer Edhen Apple Tom was the star in the win against Meghalaya on his debut.

Madhya Pradesh’s bowlers too have been pretty impressive. Seamers Ishwar Pandey, Gaurav Yadav and Anubhav Agarwal and spinner Kumar Kartikeya have been particularly impressive.

Its batters too have found their touch, with Shubham Sharma, Rajat Patidar, Akshat Raghuvanshi and Yash Dubey serving their side well.