Surat: A confident Kerala take on Vidarbha in their maiden Ranji Trophy quarterfinal here on Thursday. Kerala, who won five out of their six matches to book a place in the last-eight stage, are up against a formidable outfit consisting of domestic stalwarts such as Wasim Jaffer and captain Faiz Fazal.
Vidarbha possess a strong batting line-up with opener Sanjay Ramaswamy and former Karnataka player Ganesh Satish in their ranks in addition to Fazal and Jaffer.
With the threat of Cyclone Ockhi looming over the five-day match, first innings lead will be vital. The toss is going to be crucial and the team winning it is likely to put the rivals in to make most of the early moisture.
The Kerala think tank had opted for a four-pronged pace attack in their must-win game against Haryana at Lahli.
However, with the knockout match being a five-day affair, the team management may be tempted to play left-arm spinner Sijomon Joseph in place of medium-pacer Vinod Kumar.
Basil Thampi, who got his maiden call-up to the national team, will be raring to go. The pacer will be supported by Sandeep
Warrier and M D Nidheesh. All-rounder Jalaj Saxena has been mighty impressive with his off-spinners.
The Kerala batsmen have given a good account of themselves. Saxena has been solid at the opening slot, while the experienced Rohan Prem has played the anchor role to perfection at No. 3. Sanju Samson and outstation professional K B Arun Karthick have pulled their weight while captain Sachin Baby and Salman Nizar too have done their bit with the bat.
Kerala coach Dav Whatmore has done a brilliant job in his short stint so far and his team has played aggressive cricket this season. That will be the way to go forward in the knockout clash too.