Kerala would desperately want to forget those couple of hours of madness in its last match as it takes on Himachal Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy Group ‘C’ game at the Thalassery Cricket Stadium here from Friday.

All Kerala had to do was to bat out 47 overs at Jammu, but it somehow managed to get bowled out in 41.4 and gifted the host, Jammu & Kashmir, an unexpected win. It was a big setback, but Kerala’s coach Sujith Somasunder is confident his young team could bounce back and take advantage of home conditions.

The win had come on this ground, against Tripura. The host had romped home by nine wickets inside three days. It surely will face much bigger challenge from Himachal, which is very much the team to beat in Group ‘C’ at the moment. After winning three of its five matches, it is sitting on top of the table with 23 points, while Kerala is placed fifth among the nine teams with 12, but has played a match less.

Himachal’s strength

But it is the seam bowling, led by Dhawan himself, that has taken Himachal to the top. With 39 wickets, he is the leading wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy this season. His new-ball partner Vikramjeet Malik has scalped 20.

Kerala will be mainly looking up to left-arm spinner C.P. Shahid for wickets. The local lad had taken seven wickets in Tripura’s second innings here.

As for batting, the host is banking on Sanju Viswanadh, who has scored 445 runs at an average of 89 with a double hundred and a hundred, opener V.A. Jagadeesh and Rohan Prem, while Paras Dogra (401), Bipul Sharma (381) and Dhawan (311) have been the heavy scorers for Himachal.

The teams (from):

Kerala: Sachin Baby (capt.), V.A. Jagadeesh, Abhishek Hegde, Rohan Prem, Sanju Viswanadh, Robert Fernadez, Nikhilesh Surendran (wicketkeeper), Vinoop Manoharan, C.P. Shahid, Sachin Mohan, Prasanth Parameswaran, Sandeep Warrier, P. Prasanth, K.R. Sreejith and N. Niyas.

Himachal Pradesh: Rishi Dhawan (capt.), Prashant Chopra, Sangram Singh, Paras Dogra, Abhinav Bali, Maneik Mohil, Nikhil Gangta, Bipul Sharma, Ankush Bains (wicketkeeper), Akshay Chauhan, Vikramjeet Malik, Vishal Bhatia, Gurvinder Singh, Karanveer Singh and Varun Sharma.

More In: Cricket | Sport