The Ranji Trophy match that starts here on Tuesday features the top two teams of Elite Division Group B, but there is possibly a bigger gap between Karnataka and Bengal than the measly two points that separate them now.
Karnataka have dominated in the first two rounds. Playing away, they beat Uttar Pradesh by 185 runs and came perilously close to putting it across Delhi before bad light cut short their fourth-innings chase when they needed 23 from 19 overs with four wickets in hand.
Karnataka also look comparatively more settled. In Robin Uthappa, who missed the second match because he was in the Board President's squad, the hosts have a replacement for Rahul Dravid in batting as well as leadership.
Karnataka will continue to expect big runs from Manish Pandey and lots of wickets from pacers R. Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun, who scalped 10 against Uttar Pradesh on his debut including a hattrick in the second innings, a first by a Karnataka bowler since Javagal Srinath nearly 20 years ago.
Stuart Binny, son of Bengal coach Roger, could be part of the XI on a wicket described as "lively" and "sporting". "Stuart is likely to play and C.M. Gautam will keep wickets instead of Thilak Naidu," said Karnataka coach Sanath Kumar on Monday afternoon.
Bengal are reinforced by the return of Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha and Ashok Dinda from the Board President's match; injured Rohan Gavaskar is out and Ganguly could not be convinced to play in Mysore. There remains a question mark on skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla's fitness and coach Binny said a final decision would be taken after a fitness test on Tuesday morning.
The Gangothri Glades Ground here was covered on Monday afternoon to protect the square from a steady drizzle that started soon after Bengal and Karnataka players had long net sessions. It has been raining on and off in Mysore for the past week or so and the forecast for the next few days is not bright.