Special Correspondent

BARODA: Andhra's allround abilities will be put to the test by a buoyant Baroda in the Ranji Trophy Super League in an away game at the seamer-friendly Motibaug ground. Vijay Kumar, a young fast bowler, has been drafted into the visitor's squad to support experienced new balls handlers in K. Shahabuddin and D. Kalyan Krishna for the four-day Group A tie, starting on Sunday.

The home team, topping the group so far with nine points, announced young pace prospect Murtuza Vahora in the 15 named.

Standout performers

Baroda's coach Ashok Mankad, former India Test batsman and reputed to be a canny operator, brings out the best in his wards. Connor Williams in the opening slot and left-arm spinner Rajesh Pawar are standout performers for the former Ranji champion. Skipper Jacob Martin and new-ball bowlers Rakesh Patel and Irfan Pathan Sr. contribute collective experience. Ketan Panchal, a left-handed batsman and useful right-arm medium-pacer, is an emerging talent.

Andhra has put the victory over Saurashtra at Rajkot last week behind it and the team led by Venugopala Rao had ample time to get familiar with the playing conditions. The visitor has the players to exploit the Motibaug wicket, reputed to be a sporting one favouring stroke-makers.

Soft spot

The difficulties faced by Andhra batsmen against the moving ball in the previous game is a soft spot Baroda is expected to exploit. Rakesh Patel, one-time an India pace prospect, can be devastating on helpful tracks. Spinner Pawar is tough to score off due to accuracy and control.

Baroda won the previous Elite League game at Motibaug by seven wickets against Karnataka; Patel (eight wickets) and Pawar (six) had played decisive roles then. Coach Mankad expects a similar show of strength this time from his squad. The home side's confidence is reflected in all-rounder Ajit Bhoite's exclusion for the sake of balance in the attack. Kiran Powar, another experienced middle-order bat, will sit out since he is recovering from a shoulder injury.

Andhra will be expected to avoid a repeat of last game's mistakes, starting with reading of the wicket which, expected to be a batting beauty, turned out to be a lively patch, aiding swing and seam.

Shahabuddin and Kalyan Krishna, getting the breakthroughs after skipper Venugopala kept one end tight with his off-cutters, brought the side back into the match. The Andhra captain, wicketkeeper-batsman M. S. K. Prasad and young B. Sumanth have to display staying powers at the crease if the visitor expects to trouble the host.

The teams (from): Andhra: L.N. Prasad Reddy, M. S. K. Prasad (wk), A. S. K. Varma, Venugopala Rao (capt.), Gnaneshwara Rao, A. C. Pradeep, R. V. C. Prasad, K. Shahabuddin, Mohd. Faiq, D. Kalyan Krishna, Vijay Kumar, B. Sumanth, Laxman Kishore, Arjun Kumar, Manoj Sai. Coach: N. Madhukar.

Baroda: Connor Williams, Satyajit Parab, Rishikesh Parab, Jacob Martin (capt.), Pinal Shah (wk), Ketan Panchal, Rakesh Patel, Irfan Pathan Sr., Murtuza Vahora, Rajesh Pawar, Yusuf Pathan, Rakesh Solanki, Sankalp Vohra, Irshad Sindhi, Shatrughna Gaikwad. Coach: Ashok Mankad.

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