Ranji Trophy: Upbeat Tamil Nadu faces struggling UP

Tamil Nadu has the advantage of having played its last game in Bilaspur, around 150 kms away from here in similar conditions though coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar said the pitch was very different and warned against any complacency.

Abhinav Mukund, Ranji Trophy, Tamil Nadu

Captain Abhinav Mukund remains the key figure for Tamil Nadu batting.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Fresh off a remarkable 174-run victory on the final day against Railways, it was an upbeat Tamil Nadu side that arrived at the picturesque HPCA stadium here for its third Ranji Trophy match of the season. Its opponent, Uttar Pradesh, was far less effusive as the last-placed side in Group A looks to bring its struggling campaign back on track.

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The new neutral-venue format for the season has meant that Tamil Nadu would be playing the first three of its games up north even though an early start to the season has meant the conditions are far more agreeable than usual. What has not been agreeable is the manner in which Tamil Nadu batsmen have capitulated in the first innings of both its games – against Mumbai and Railways – before fighting back in the second. It would not be wrong to say that the team has been kept afloat by its bowlers.

If it was the seam pair of Aswin Crist and K. Vignesh leading the charge in the first game, off-spinner Malolan Rangarajan and T. Natarajan stepped up in the second. Captain Abhinav Mukund remains the key figure for Tamil Nadu batting, along with co-opener Washington Sundar and the experienced Dinesh Karthik.

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The team also has the advantage of having played its last game in Bilaspur, around 150 kms away from here in similar conditions though coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar said the pitch was very different and warned against any complacency.

Uttar Pradesh, on the other hand, comes from the dusty terrains of Jaipur. It has been unable to find the right combination even as the ones tried out so far have failed. In contrast to Tamil Nadu, UP has managed to do well in the first innings, managing to cross the 400-run mark both times, before collapsing in the second. Coach Manoj Prabhakar, though, remains concerned about his batting.

An innings defeat (to MP) to start the season was made worse by the absence of Suresh Raina, who had to sit out because of a fever despite being part of the XI in the first game. Positives, though, would be the form of chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, who has consistently picked up wickets and also scored crucial runs.

The coach also has high hopes from Sarfaraz Khan, who has managed to get starts, and opener Tanmay Srivastava. Captain Eklavya Dwivedi can hit the big shots too and even though Praveen Kumar hasn't played yet, he remains in the mix to add experience down the order.

The teams (from):

Tamil Nadu: Abhinav Mukund (C), Baba Aparajith, Baba Indrajith, M. S. Washington Sundar, N. Jagadeesan, Dinesh Karthik, J. Kousik, L. Surya Prakash, Rahil Shah, Malolan Rangarajan, R. Aushik Srinivas, A. Aswin Crist, M. Mohammed, K. Vignesh, T. Natarajan and M. Kaushik Gandhi.

Uttar Pradesh: Eklavya Dwivedi (C), Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Tanmay Srivastava, Ankit Rajpoot, Imtiaz Ahmed, Israr Azim, Umang Sharma, Almas Shaukat, Sarfaraz Khan, Samarth Singh, Amit Mishra, Praveen Kumar, Deependra Pandey, Mohammad Saif, Saurabh Kumar.

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