Two teams with similar strengths — Karnataka and last year’s runner-up Kerala — will square off in the final of the Buchi Babu all-India cricket tournament, beginning on Sunday.

Both sides are endowed with accomplished batsmen and parsimonious spinners. They were also grouped together in the league phase, Kerala winning by six wickets when the two clashed in a first round Group ‘D’ match. They then had to stave off a tough challenge from Gujarat to qualify for the quarterfinals.

Karnataka’s top-order has looked solid with the likes of Manish Pandey, Ganesh Satish, and C.M. Gautam producing good scores. The team would nevertheless love a bigger contribution from Robin Uthappa, who scored a half-century against Mumbai in the semifinals.

Batting prowess

Kerala’s batsmen, on the other hand, may not have imposing reputations but their efficacy in the tournament has been beyond doubt. The successful pursuit of Saurashtra’s 397 in the quarterfinals was an emphatic affirmation of Kerala’s batting prowess.

Opener Abhishek Hegde, with two centuries, has been in fine nick. Captain Sachin Baby and the promising Sanju Vishwanadh Samson have raised their games in the knockout stage.

On the fast-bowling front, Karnataka has a clear edge with Abhimanyu Mithun and skipper Vinay Kumar leading the attack. Vinay, who missed the semifinal as he had to leave for Bangalore to receive the Ekalavya Award, is expected to play in the final.

Kerala fares better in the spin department with left-arm tweaker K.R. Sreejith and offie S. Anish, who picked up six wickets against Baroda in the semifinals, in its ranks. For Karnataka, left-arm spinner K.P. Appanna has done a good job.

In a more-or-less even contest such as this, predictions can be tricky business.

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