Fresh from scoring a much-needed victory over Maharashtra at home, Tamil Nadu will be looking to enhance its points tally against Delhi in the Ranji Trophy league match starting here on Saturday.

The teams, with eight points each from three matches, face-off at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground where the L. Balaji-led side took the first innings lead last season.

Given Delhi’s inconsistent new-ball attack, Tamil Nadu opener Abhinav Mukund will be looking to end his search for a big innings in this year’s competition.

Mukund, barring the 51 against Karnataka in a score of 538 for four declared, came a cropper against Odisha and Maharashtra. The other opener, M. Vijay, has not been released from the Test squad.

The rain-affected match against Odisha and the high-scoring outing against Karnataka have not done much to the Tamil Nadu batsmen’s confidence. The bowlers did take a beating against Karnataka but came good when it mattered against Maharashtra.

Among the bowlers, Balaji has the capability of posing serious problems to the Delhi batsmen.

The attack, which has medium-pacers J. Kaushik, M. Mohammad and Yomahesh along with left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas, off-spinner Malolan Rangarajan and leg-spinner M. Ashwin, has the variety to test the Delhi batting.

“Our bowling unit is relatively fresh. It’ll take time to adjust. Delhi has always had a good seam attack. Mithun (Manhas) and Rajat (Bhatia) are the two most dangerous batsmen in domestic cricket.

“We respect these two for their phenomenal success. (B.) Aparajit has come good (with the bat).

“Medium-pacer M. Mohammad and Ashwin are exciting prospects. We are building a team that can win in all conditions,” said Tamil Nadu coach V.B. Chandrashekhar.

On the other hand, Delhi is grappling with its own problems. Ironical as it may sound, the pitch at the Kotla continues to surprise the host.

“Given our pace attack, we have asked for a pitch with a touch of green. Let’s see what we get,” said coach Vijay Dahiya.

Dahiya’s predicament is justified since Delhi has seldom got the pitch to its liking.

The variable bounce and insufficient ‘carry’ seen at the Kotla has not only disheartened the bowlers but also restricted fluent stroke-play.

Nehra makes way

Left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra, who bowled just six overs against Baroda before leaving the field due to a hamstring injury, makes way for Pradeep Sangwan. Parvinder Awana, Pawan Suyal and Sumit Narwal are the other pace options in the squad.

Vikas Mishra should replace fellow left-arm spinner Manan Sharma in the playing eleven.

Youngster Vaibhav Rawal, too, has been included in the squad.

Recent centurions Manhas and Bhatia provide the much-needed experience in the middle-order even though most of Delhi’s batsmen have, at least, one score of 50-plus in the competition so far.

Given the nature of the pitch and the batting strengths of the sides involved, the battle could well be for the first innings lead.

Keywords: Ranji Trophy

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