Eleven months since being involved in a nail-biting semifinal, Tamil Nadu will face Saurashtra yet again for a place in the last four of the Vijay Hazare Trophy at Nadiad, 65 km from here, on Monday.
Despite that last-ball thriller in Jaipur last December weighing on both contingents’ minds, two of the most consistent one-day sides in domestic cricket will square off after topping their respective groups.
Tamil Nadu - the most successful team in the tournament with five titles so far - has featured in two of the last three finals, while Saurashtra has qualified for the knockouts for the third consecutive season. Tamil Nadu trained at a private facility here on Sunday, while Saurashtra practised at the Gokulbhai Somabhai Patel Stadium in Nadiad, the venue for the match.
Come Monday and both teams will know that the clash of the heavyweights could well be decided during the new-ball battle in Tamil Nadu’s batting essay.
N. Jagadeesan and B. Sai Sudharsan - the Tamil Nadu openers - have been in the form of their life. Such has been their dominance in the league stage that besides creating a plethora of records, the duo has faced almost 82 per cent of the 1542 balls faced by Tamil Nadu batters in the league stage.
If the duo - with a combined tally of 1,408 runs and eight hundreds - can continue its streak, the job will be all but done. But its task will easier said than done. After all, they will be up against a pair of left-arm pacers who are in red-hot form.
Captain Jaydev Unadkat and the promising Chetan Sakariya have so far claimed 24 wickets together. Moreover, the duo has consistently struck with the new ball. Only once in its seven games did Saurashtra go wicktetless in the Powerplay.
With early morning start favouring the teams fielding first - all three pre-quarterfinals saw the team batting losing the game - Saurashtra will be hoping the coin lands in Unadkat’s favour.
Jagadeesan and Sai Sudharsan’s prolific form has meant the middle and lower-middle order have seldom come into play. It will be interesting to see if Tamil Nadu captain B. Indrajith promotes big-hitter M. Shahrukh Khan in the batting order should the openers continue to fire.
Saurashtra is a side with fighting quality. They come back very strong. Even last year’s game was a close one. We will look at their strength and try to work a way out.
— M. Venkatramana, Tamil Nadu coach
It’s not a revenge game for us. We lost off the very last ball last year but are confident of setting the record straight tomorrow. If we can expose their middle order early, the job will be half done.
— Niraj Odedra, Saurashtra coach