Jain University, Bengaluru will take on Aligarh Muslim University in a crucial Group A encounter in the Toyota University Cricket Championship on Thursday. While the Bangalore boys are sitting pretty at the top of the table with two wins in two matches, this will be the first outing for the Aligarh boys. The match will be played at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in the Garden City.
Southern Champs Jain University, the Rohinton Baria Trophy winners in 2012-13, are on a roll with skipper Kaunain Abbas in superb nick. The gangling Bengaluru batsman scored 128 and 74 against Jaunpur and Gwalior, respectively, to lead his team to back-to-back victories. Even Jain University bowlers seem to be on course with Prabhakar Rajendra, Samarth R, Shashindra and Daniel Sequeira all chipping in.
For the Northern Stallions Aligarh boys, ably led by Imran Saleem, the biggest challenge will be to overcome their own fears. They lost to Jain University in the Rohinton Baria quarter-final despite being in control for most parts of the contest. Six catches were dropped in a tight contest then. Saleem insists that the team has learned from those mistakes and moved on.
Aligarh team largely depends on Saleem, all-rounder Rohit Saini, bowlers Meraj Ahmed and Mansoor Ahmed. They also have a giant in 6'7" tall Areeb Farooqui, who is also an all-round cricketer.
While Bangalore side do have the momentum and the advantage of home conditions (third consecutive game at Chinnaswamy), they can also thank their stars considering the form Abbas is in. But what happens if the Aligarh bowlers manage to dislodge the Rahul Dravid-fan early is something worth waiting for.
By the looks of it, Aligarh do have stability at the top and big hitters to cash in on later but Bengaluru too possess the skill to fight back even when chips are down. This was proved by Shreyas Gopal in the match against Jiwaji University with a blistering 42 off 24 balls to support his skipper.
The match may boil down to the fact that which team holds fort, not only on the field but also in the space between their ears.