Principal Correspondent

Mysore: Host Karnataka is aiming for a victory against Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy Elite Group A match that commences at the Gangotri Glades Stadium here on Saturday. With Rajasthan having been the whipping boys of the group, losing three consecutive games, Karnataka cannot be blamed for excess optimism.

Karnataka has eight points from three outings and is placed fifth in the group while Rajasthan scrapes the bottom having drawn a blank so far.

"We have to win to brighten our chances of qualifying for the knockout. I am apprehensive about our batting and if only we could replicate our second innings batting in the first innings, I am sure we will then do well. We might go in with an extra batsman," said Vijay Bharadwaj, the Karnataka coach.

Mixed campaign

Karnataka has had a mixed campaign so far, salvaging dour draws against Mumbai and Tamil Nadu after conceding the first innings lead while defeating Himachal Pradesh by an innings and 126 runs at home.

Karnataka’s batting has been a wobble though the exceptions have been Rahul Dravid’s centuries against Mumbai and Himachal Pradesh, Thilak Naidu’s 105 against Himachal Pradesh and some dogged batting by C. Raghu and skipper Yere Goud against Tamil Nadu.

The bowling, manned by seamers N.C. Aiyappa and Vinay Kumar and backed by left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi, has been in better shape though consistency is a needed factor.

Disappointing show

Rajasthan meanwhile has banked on Gagan Khoda’s runs and seamer Pankaj Singh’s wickets (20 so far). The rest have failed with V.A. Saxena’s 99 against Maharashtra being a lone-ranger act.

Rajasthan having lost to Delhi, Maharashtra and Saurashtra, will be hoping for a change in fortunes at a venue where Karnataka has a psychological edge. Last year at the same venue, Karnataka defeated Haryana with Robin Uthappa’s blistering 108 being the highlight.

The teams:

Karnataka: Yere Goud (capt.), Robin Uthappa, K.B. Pawan, Sudhindra Shinde, C. Raghu, Thilak Naidu (wicket-keeper), B. Akhil, Sunil Joshi, R. Vinay Kumar, N.C. Aiyappa, K.P. Appanna, S. Dhananjaya, Udit Patel, Bharat Chipli and Devraj Patil. Coach: Vijay Bharadwaj.

Rajasthan: Mohammad Aslam (capt.), Manish Sharma, Afroz Khan, Vineet Saxena, Gagan Khoda, Nikhil Doru, Rohit Jhalani (wicket-keeper), Abhijit Sharma, Nishant Singh, Pankaj Singh, Robin Bisht, Rajesh Bishnoi, Shamsher Singh and Sumit Mathur.

Umpires: Ravi Deshmukh (Baroda) and AY Gokhale (Mumbai). Match referee: Balbir Singh (Punjab).

Hours of play: 9.30 a.m. to noon, 12.40 to 2.40 p.m. and 3 p.m. to close of play.

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