Having failed to register an outright victory after gaining a first-innings lead in their opening games, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu will play their second Group B match of this season’s Ranji Trophy at the Holkar Stadium from Thursday.

MP coach Mukesh Sahani has revealed that Salman Baig will make his first-class debut, replacing all-rounder Jatin Saxena. Sahani expects the pitch to assist seamers a little more than spinners. Hence, Baig’s medium-pacers will be preferred to Jatin’s leg-spin.

After picking up 11 wickets against Railways in the previous match here, last-season’s top wicket-taker Ishwar Pandey is set to be MP’s primary bowling weapon.

In the batting department, 22-year-old Satyam Choudhary is coming off an unbeaten 239, while Mohnish Mishra and skipper Devendra Bundela are in fine nick too, having scored half-centuries in the first round.

Mishra, obviously, is under greater focus than before as he recently completed a one-year suspension. The MP vice-captain was found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute by the BCCI after he was caught indulging in “loose talk and unsubstantiated bragging” through a news channel sting operation last year.

Nobody, though, can match B. Aparajith’s form presently as the teenager has scored two double-hundreds and a century in his last five first-class innings. Tamil Nadu, however, will have to choose Abhinav Mukund’s opening partner since M. Vijay is busy with international commitments. K.B. Arun Karthik looks the likely candidate.

With off-spinner Malolan Rangarajan gradually improving his batting, it seems he will bat at number seven again. Hence, TN should be expected to once again field five specialist bowlers, boosting the side’s ability to claim 20 wickets.

Aswin Crist made a creditable debut against Services, which should ensure that he retains his place.

The squads (from): Madhya Pradesh: Devendra Bundela (Capt.), Satyam Choudhary, Jalaj Saxena, Zafar Ali, Mohnish Mishra, Rameez Khan, Udit Birla, Salman Baig, Anand Rajan, Amarjeet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Jatin Saxena, Naman Ojha, Nikhil Sawke, Shubham Sharma.

Tamil Nadu: L. Balaji (Capt.), Abhinav Mukund, K.B. Arun Karthik, S. Badrinath, B. Aparajith, Dinesh Karthik, R. Prasanna, Malolan Rangarajan, Aswin Crist, Aushik Srinivas, Sunil Sam, B. Indrajith, Umashankar Sushil, M. Mohammed, Vijay Shankar.

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