Lokesh Rahul returns to Karnataka's Ranji Trophy team after a healthy tour of Australia © Getty Images (File Photo)
Lokesh Rahul returns to Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy team after a healthy tour of Australia © Getty Images (File Photo)

Mysuru: Jan 20, 2015

A rampant Karnataka, strengthened by the return of Test batsman Lokesh Rahul, take on Baroda, in the sixth round of the Ranji Trophy starting here Wednesday, in what should be another comfortable outing for the hosts. They currently lead Group A table with 28 points.

With four wins and a draw in the previous five matches, Karnataka, with their pronounced seam-centric bowling, have looked their part as the defending champions and Baroda, who are on 15 points after five matches, have not exactly set the turf on fire despite the presence of India discards, the Pathan brothers Irfan and Yusuf.

Rahul, who won much acclaim on his debut Test series in Australia earlier this month following a classy century, will certainly lend more steel to a Karnataka top order that has lacked consistency.

However, for Baroda the real threat is Karnataka’s seam attack, led by skipper Vinay Kumar who has taken 26 wickets in five matches thus far, followed by Sreenath Aravind (22) and Abhimanyu Mithun (20).

As such, it is unlikely that the team will miss Stuart Binny who is away in Australia on national duty and injured HS Sharath.

Baroda would be looking up to the Pathan siblings who played major roles in the team’s only win, against Uttar Pradesh in their previous game.

Irfan Pathan scored 98 to complement opener Kedar Devdhar’s 146 in Baroda’s first innings total of 498, while off-spinner Yusuf Pathan took six wickets to skittle the opposition for 223 as Baroda went on to win the game by 10 wickets.

In contrast, Karnataka, after four consecutive wins, played out a tame draw with Madhya Pradesh, picking up three points for a first innings lead and will be looking to getting back to the winning ways.

While Karnataka have all but clinched a spot in the knockout phase, Baroda cannot afford to drop any points and as such, will be under more pressure to perform.