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Kerala has the edge

By Our Sports Reporter

PALAKKAD, DEC. 12 . Kerala has the edge against Saurashtra, though a closer look promises an open contest, in the four-day Ranji Trophy Plate Group `A' match beginning at the Fort Maidan grounds here on Monday.

The host, which opened its Ranji account with two points for the slender first innings lead against Jharkand in Jamshedpur last week, carries the psychological edge of having beaten the visitor by a huge margin and that too in its own den in 2002.

"We wish to keep that at the back of our heads and play positively for a similar win," said the Kerala coach, K. Chandrasekhara Rao. "The team is good, but our strategy is simple — win the match and get that four points."

The grassy wicket and may favour the Kerala pace bowlers Tinu Yohanan, S. Sreesanth, Prasanth Chandran and Sony Cheruvthur.

"We may have a strong bowling side, but our worry is batting. If that clicks then the rest should come easy. But it all depends on the day's performance," said the coach.

Kerala's batting rests on skipper Shreekumar Nair, Ajay Kudwa and Sunil Oasis.

The 26-year-old Nair, leading the side for the first time, is in good form and has got a neat past record as a batsman.

He belted the Saurashtra bowling attack to score 140-plus when the teams last met. Against Jharkand this month, he shone with both the bat and the ball.

"We have a decent team and the track looks good. But, we are not going to take things lightly," said Nair.

Saurashtra had earned two points against Jammu and Kashmir in the last match. Jaidev Shah, skippering for the first time this season, has a team that boasts of an equally balanced side.

"It's going to be a closely fought contest. Our batsmen are confident of facing any bowling attack. They have grown more in confidence especially after they chased that 500-plus score against J&K," said Shirish Buch, the manager of the team.

The teams:

Kerala (from): Shreekumar Nair (captain), Suresh Kumar (vice-captain), Mouzim Nathan (wicket-keeper), Sebastian Anthony, V.A. Jagdish, Ajay Kudwa, Sunil Oasis, K. Ananthapadmanabhan, K. Chandrasekara, Tinu Yohanan, S. Sreesanth, Prasanth Chandran, Sony Cheruvthur, S. Ramakrishna, Saurabh. Coach: K. Chandrasekhara Rao.

Saurashtra (from): Jaidev Shah (captain), Sitansu Kotak, Bhushan Chauhan, Sagar Jogiyani, Prakash Bhatt, Nikhil Rathod, J. Sandeep, Rakesh Dhruve, Sandeep Maniyar, Virendra Vegda, Maulik Thanki, Kamlesh Makwana, Sohil Jivani, Haresh Dabhi, Ashok Kamalia. Coach: Debu M.

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