The Victoria Park is decked up. A poster saluting Sachin Tendulkar — The Legend stands out even as the hosts humbly welcome the fans of domestic cricket to the Tamil Nadu-Uttar Pradesh Ranji Trophy encounter that begins here on Thursday.

The teams get down to business in quick time. W.V. Raman and Venkatesh Prasad, both Indian teammates once, now manage their respective teams. Raman has returned to his roots this season after a stint with Bengal and Prasad extends his tenure with Uttar Pradesh. Their minds will plan the plot over the next four days.

The ambience is a contrast to the concrete monsters that constitute cricket stadiums. Bowlers enjoy wind assistance and some help from the pitch too, at least in the initial phase. Tamil Nadu should prosper through the experienced L. Balaji. A double century each by S. Badrinath and B. Aparajith have been the highlights for Tamil Nadu, which ended up with first-innings lead honours against Services and Madhya Pradesh.

“So far, we have started decently. In both our games, the batsmen have done well. On this wicket, if there is a bit of assistance, it is important for the bowling unit to come good. I won’t say batting depends on Badri (S. Badrinath) and Aparajith alone,” said Balaji.

Uttar Pradesh, which beat Baroda but conceded lead to Saurashtra, will miss Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Suresh Raina to India duty and Praveen Kumar to injury. But there is talent in young Amit Mishra and potential in Parvindar Singh. A fit R.P. Singh adds to the bowling strength.

Uttar Pradesh skipper Piyush Chawla drew an optimistic picture. “We’re happy with the way we played in the first two games. The team has gelled well. We can take a lot of positives out of those games.” The teams realise the significance of the contest. Tamil Nadu seeks it first win. Uttar Pradesh will be happy with a draw.

The teams (from): Tamil Nadu: L. Balaji (Capt.), S. Badrinath, Abhinav Mukund, M. Vijay, Baba Aparajith, R. Prasanna, Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar, R. Aushik Karthik, K.B. Arun Karthik, Malolan Rangarajan, Sunil Sam, U. Sushil, A. Aswin Crist and J. Kaushik.

Uttar Pradesh: Piyush Chawla (Capt.), R.P. Singh, Mukul Dagar, Tanmay Srivastava, Mohammad Kaif, Parvinder Singh, Arish Alam, Prashant Gupta, Amir Khan, Eklavya Dwivedi, Imtiaz Ahmed, Praveen Gupta, Ali Murtaza, Amit Mishra, Deependra Pandey and Umang Sharma.

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