Having faced the wrath of rain in their opening matches, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh were apprehensive of the weather ahead of their engagement starting at the Eden Gardens here from Thursday.
The wet ground, owing to heavy rain two days back, and a thick layer of clouds overhead looked ominous. The Met department has predicted cloudy skies for the next two days.
Kerala performed well against Jammu and Kashmir in Kalyani, where Sanju Samson scored a dazzling 154 and opener Jalaj Saxena struck a brilliant half-century. The team will want its other batsmen, such as captain Rohan Prem, Sachin Baby and Bhavin Thakkar, to raise the bar against Himachal.
Kerala's seamers -- Sandeep Warrier, Basil Thampi and Manu Krishnan -- and spinners -- Iqbal Abdullah and Monish K. – helped it press for an outright win against Jammu and Kashmir but had to settle for three points. The variety in attack should serve the side well against Himachal's sound batting line-up.
"We have the resources to tackle Himachal," asserted Kerala coach P. Balachandran.
Himachal had some encouraging performances from its batsmen against Andhra. Opener Prashant Chopra and Sumeet Verma, who got his maiden hundred in second first class outing, scored centuries in Bhubaneswar but their team could gather only one point from the rain-marred encounter.
The duo's showing should boost fellow batters – Ankush Bains, Nikhil Gangta, Paras Dogra and Robin Bist – who are capable of playing big knocks.
The presence of all-rounders Rishi Dhawan and Mayank Dagar, an India under-19 player who made his debut against Andhra, gives Himachal good balance.
Pacers Akshay Chauhan, Shresth Nirmohi and Pankaj Jayaswal and left-arm spinners Rahul Singh and Dagar comprise Himachal's bowling unit.
Himachal will still miss the services of two of its experienced players, seamer Vikramjit Malik, nursing a shin injury, and all-rounder Bipul Sharma with an injured finger.
The damp ground forced both teams to train at the indoor facility. “We just hope that rain does not spoil the match here,” said Himachal coach Abhay Sharma.
With the newly-laid pitch bearing a hue of green, the seamers, who must be aware of the Indian pacemen’s impact in the recently-concluded second Test against New Zealand here, may be eager to play a prominent role over the next four days.
Kerala: Rohan Prem (captain), Sachin Baby, V.A. Jagadeesh, Bhavin Thakkar, Jalaj Saxena , Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Monish K, Iqbal Abdulla, Nikhilesh Surendran, Sandeep Warrier, Basil Thampi, Manu Krishnan, Robert Fernandez, Nidheesh M.D., Vinod Kumar.
Himachal Pradesh: Rishi Dhawan (captain), Prashant Chopra, Ankush Bains (wicket-keeper), Nikhil Gangta, Paras Dogra, Robin Bist, Sumeet Verma, Amit Kumar, Mayank Dagar, Gurinder Singh, Pankaj Jayaswal, Shresth Nirmohi, Akshay Chauhan, Kunwar Abhinay, Rahul Singh Chara.
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