Although Tamil Nadu’s position in the points table - second- betrays its mixed outing so far, it does show that the team has got its campaign back on track after a close loss to defending champion Mumbai in the opening encounter.
The side has fought back with two outright wins including an >innings win against Baroda in the last match and is riding a wave of confidence going into the game against Bengal starting Sunday.
It has benefitted from a captain leading from the front in Abhinav Mukund, who has managed three centuries in the tournament. Contributions from the leading run-scorer for the side - senior statesman Dinesh Karthik – were useful as well. But importantly, after the first two matches, what is promising is that almost every player has delivered when called up.
Skipper Abhinav was happy with the bench strength of the side. “It has been great that almost every player has grabbed the opportunities with [both] hands. Keeping a player of the calibre of Aparajith away has been difficult but no slots have opened up, which shows how well the players have made use of the chances,” he said.
The team’s pace battery has delivered this season, with the trio of T. Natarajan, Aswin Crist and K. Vignesh leading the charge.
The paceman has found good support from left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas in the last two games. In the last game, after left-arm paceman Natarajan was ruled out with injury, Vignesh came back with a strong performance with eight wickets after missing the game against Madhya Pradesh. On Saturday, the left-armer was bowling in the nets and is available for selection.
But Tamil Nadu is up against a Bengal team which has got off to a good start with two wins in the three games and took the first innings lead in the other. The team’s last match against Gujarat in Delhi was called off due to pollution in the national capital and it won’t mind the extra few days of rest ahead of a crucial game.
For Bengal, the two players who have played for India - Manoj Tiwary and Ashok Dinda - have taken the onus on themselves with bat and ball respectively. Skipper Tiwary has produced useful knocks including a ton, while Dinda has led from the front with three five-wicket hauls.
Skipper Tiwary said, “We have maximised our opportunities in all three games and have executed every plan we had in our team meetings. It shows our plans are also working.”
Tiwary felt the extra days of rest could be a double-edged sword as the team had a good rhythm going for it and said the team is focussing on just being fresh for match day.
The pitch has historically been known for being flat and loaded in favour of batsmen, and the Bengal skipper felt enforcing a result could be a challenge.
Tiwary said, “There will definitely be partnerships but we have good quality bowlers and the Tamil Nadu batsmen are generally stroke players. So our challenge is to bowl tight and force them to commit mistakes.”
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