Both Karnataka and Jammu & Kashmir will be seeking outright wins when they meet at the IIT-Chemplast ground on Thursday in what could be an intriguing Ranji Trophy clash.
Karnataka will be without influential opener Mayank Agarwal - busy with India duties - for the game but will include experienced batsman Karun Nair, who has recovered from Covid, and fast bowler Prasidh Krishna.
Prasidh has joined the state side after featuring in limited-over matches for India.
Karnataka took the first innings lead over Railways after scoring 481 - there were hundreds from K. Siddharth and skipper Manish Pandey - in a bruising encounter.
Railways fought hard to make 426 and the southern side should thank off-spinner K. Gowtham and seamer Ronit More for giving it the lead.
Jammu & Kashmir had an easier time against Puducherry scoring an outright win. The side’s opening pair of Qamar Iqbal and Jatin Wadhwa came good and the talented Abdul Samad made a valuable 103.
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Then off-spinning all-rounder Parvez Rasool took centre-stage and there were wickets too for the fast and exciting Umran Malik.
Jammu & Kashmir is a capable side with seasoned campaigners such as skipper Ian Dev Singh. This is a side that can sting.
Yet, given its pedigree, Karnataka will start the contest as the firm favourite. There is a balance between its batting and bowling, with several options.
The pitch may assist the seamers early on but can help spinners appreciably as the contest progresses. Batting first and big will be the right ploy.
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It would be good to see the young Prasidh have a crack at the Jammu & Kashmir batsmen. He has pace, bounce, movement and can send down a mean yorker.
There is more than a bit of young Javagal Srinath in Prasidh and plenty of Karnataka hopes rest on him. More too is a nippy seamer.
However, the men who could hold the key to this encounter will be the two off-spinners, Gowtham and Rasool. They are expected to strongly come into the picture as the match progresses.