Wayanad: Kerala is in uncharted territory and will hope to turn the tables on the in-form defending champion Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy semifinal, beginning at the Krishnagiri stadium here on Thursday.
Having lost to Vidarbha in the quarterfinal last year, the home team will want to exact revenge, having made history by reaching the last four.
Having got the better of Gujarat in a low-scoring quarterfinal at the same stadium, the Kerala team, coached by Dav Whatmore, who led Sri Lanka to the 50-overs World Cup victory, will look up to its bowlers to rise to the occasion again.
Medium-pacers Basil Thampi and Sandeep Warrier fashioned Kerala's win over Gujarat and will be hoping for an encore.
However, they will be up against a strong rival batting line-up, which includes the prolific veteran Wasim Jaffer, Akshay Wadkar, skipper Faiz Fazal and Sanjay Ramaswamy.
Jaffer, with 969 runs, is second behind Sikkim's Milind Kumar on the season's run-scorers list and will be the key batsman for the reigning champions.
His wicket will be one Kerala's bowlers will be aiming to get at the earliest.
Vidarbha had a comfortable outing in the quarterfinals with Umesh Yadav, back in the side after playing the Tests in Australia and Jaffer, leading the way.
The Vidarbha team, coached former India gloveman Chandrakant Pandit, boasts of a formidable pace attack led by Yadav and will be more than a handful for the host batsmen.
The Wayanad track is known to offer assistance to fast bowlers and both sides have a good set of pacers.
The batsmen on both sides will be tested.
The quarterfinal against Gujarat saw Kerala's star batsman Sanju Samson suffer a hand injury and there are doubts about his participation in the semifinal clash.
The Kerala batting has done well and the experienced all-rounder Jalaj Saxena, who shifted from Madhya Pradesh, has been the main man.
He has not only scored runs, but taken wickets, crucial ones at that.
He has so far scored 537 runs and taken 28 wickets and his role will be crucial as the team aims to make history by making its first ever Ranji Trophy final.
The team has been led well by Sachin Baby, who has also scored 479 runs, inclusive of two centuries.
The batting unit will have to show character against the pace attack led by Umesh Yadav.
How the batsmen of the two sides fare could very well decide the semifinal to be played at the scenic stadium.
Teams (from): Faiz Fazal (Captain), Wasim Jaffer, Sanjay Ramaswamy, Ganesh Satish, Akshay Wadkar, Akshay Wakhare, Umesh Yadav, Rajneesh Gurbani, Aditya Sarwate, Mohit Kale, Suniket Bingewar, Atharwa Taide, Apoorv Wankhade, Aditya Thakare and Siddesh Wath.
Kerala: P Rahul, Sachin Baby (Captain), Vinoop Manoharan, Vishnu Vinod, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Jalaj Saxena, Sijomon Joseph, Basil Thampi, MD Nideesh, Sandeep Warrier, Akshay Chandran, Arun Karthik, Rohan Prem and V Jagadeesh.
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