With just five points from four games, Tamil Nadu faces the grim prospect of being knocked out of the group stages of the Ranji Trophy for the second consecutive year.

The home team needs at least three outright wins from its next four games and its best chance will be here at home against Kerala starting Thursday.

While TN could claim things did not go in its favour in the first three matches, where a combination of weather and a placid wicket prevented it from picking crucial points, the defeat to Bengal in its last game came down to poor batting.

After winning the toss, TN squandered the best of the conditions especially in its second innings after taking a crucial 74-run lead.

Skipper Indrajith said, “What we learnt from the last match was that we need to have fewer soft dismissals especially when a batsman is set, he has to make it count.”

Fortunately for TN, the arrival of Dinesh Karthik should come as a shot in the arm, bringing some stability to the middle order. Importantly, he is someone who can shift gears and play aggressively to take the match away from the opponent, a key trait needed to turn a strong situation into a winning one.

Jalaj Saxena holds the key

Kerala too comes into the game on the back of a loss to Madhya Pradesh but the team is better placed after having posted two convincing wins earlier in the season and is currently second in the points table.

After having been bowled out for 63 in its first innings, the team’s batting unit responded strongly in the second, posting a score in excess of 400, which showed that the collapse was an aberration.

The pitch is expected to be similar to the one that TN and Bengal played on, assisting spin and both teams would need to get their bowling combinations right. It will be interesting to see if TN drafts in mystery spinner C.V. Varun into the side instead of a medium pacer.

For Kerala,  all-rounder Jalaj Saxena has been in fine with the ball, picking up 17 wickets so far but the team will hope the other spinners too step up to the occasion.