Wayanad: Kerala are all set to play their maiden Ranji Trophy semifinal when they face off against defending champions Vidarbha at the Krishnagiri Stadium, here on Thursday.
Vidarbha had thrashed Kerala by a huge margin of 412 runs last year in the quarterfinal at Surat.
Kerala, who started playing in India’s premier domestic tournament since 1957, finally put an end to their six-decade wait of making it to the semifinals when they outplayed Gujarat by 113 runs in their quarterfinal at Krishnagiri.
The historic victory was set up by the pace duo of Basil Thampi and Sandeep Warrier who scalped 16 wickets between them.
The unsung hero Sijomon Joseph, who was the lone batsman from either side to score a fifty on an uneven track, and Jalaj Saxena, who contributed a crucial unbeaten 44 in the second innings, too had a big role in Kerala's win.
Saxena, with 537 runs that includes two centuries and 28 wickets, has been one of the leading all-rounders in the competition.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson, who suffered a fracture on his finger during the quarterfinal, is likely to be replaced by the experienced V A Jagadeesh in the playing eleven. Jagadeesh had scored a century against Hyderabad during the group stage before struggling for form.
The inconsistency of the middle-order batsmen is a concern for Kerala captain Sachin Baby.
On the other hand, Vidarbha defeated Uttarakhand by an innings and 115 runs in their quarterfinal in Nagpur. Pacers Umesh Yadav and left-arm spinner Aditya Sarvate grabbed five wickets each to dismantle them for 159 in the second innings. Vidarbha with the likes of Umesh, Suniket Bingewar and Rajneesh Gurbani have enough firepower to match the Kerala pace trio of Basil, Warrier and M D Nidheesh.
Vidarbha have a strong batting line-up that includes prolific run-getters like the evergreen Wasim Jaffer, skipper Faiz Fazal and Sanjay Ramaswamy. Jaffer has been in supreme form this season and he made 206 against Uttarakhand besides noting up tons against Mumbai and Gujarat.
Kerala are coached by Australian Dav Whatmore, while the side's former director of cricket Chandrakant Pandit is in charge of Vidarbha.
The wicket at Krishnagiri offered plenty of help for the fast bowlers in the quarterfinals and the match got over inside the first session on day three. It remains to be seen how the track for the big game plays.