A keen tussle on the cards

With the weather forecast promising sunnier days ahead, the five-day knock-out match between Gujarat and Bengal is unlikely to be hampered and a good battle is on the cards on a pitch that may assist the batsmen.

Priyank Panchal (538 runs) is at the peak of Gujarat's batting chart.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

Overcast and gloomy conditions on the eve of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal match between Bengal and Gujarat at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium here reminded one of the abandoned group engagement between the two at the smog-covered Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi last year.

One can breath easy as Jaipur is not Delhi. With the weather forecast promising sunnier days ahead, the five-day knock-out match is unlikely to be hampered.

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Gujarat is on a high because of its recent upsurge. This season has gone well too for the defending champion, which led Group B and emerged as the most successful — 34 points from five wins and a draw in six matches — among all 28 teams.

Blessed with some home matches, Gujarat has gained a lot through its spinners on helpful red-soil tracks. Seasoned leg-spinner Piyush Chawla (31 wickets) and 17-year-old left-arm spinner Siddharth Desai (28) taking the third and fifth slots respectively among the leading wicket-takers tells the story.

The Parthiv Patel-led outfit has also benefitted from the depth in its batting. Even though Priyank Panchal (538 runs) and Rujul Bhatt (426) are at the peak of Gujarat's batting chart, the side has prospered from contributions of others in times of need.

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Playing at a neutral venue may be a good challenge for Gujarat, which has some able pacers in Chintan Gaja and Ishwar Chaudhary. “It's like playing away matches. You have to adapt to all conditions. We have got a balanced side,” said Parthiv.

Bengal will take confidence from its consistent showing. Most of its elite batmen — including Abhishek Raman, Sudip Chatterjee, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Manoj Tiwary, Anustup Majumder — have contributed handsomely to enable the side take the second position in Group D with 23 points from two wins, one loss and three draws.

Bengal, nevertheless, would be worried about the availability of Sudip (410), who is the second highest run-getter after Abhishek (549), as the vice-captain missed Wednesday's practice due to high fever.

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Bengal's bowling strength lies in its pace attack, led by the experienced Ashoke Dinda who is fourth overall with 30 scalps. In the absence of Mohammad Shami, Bengal may depend on its talented speedsters, including Ishan Porel and Kanishk Seth.

“Need to keep the atmosphere comfortable. The youngsters should not come under any extra pressure,” said Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwary.  

A good battle is on the cards on a pitch that may assist the batsmen.

The teams (from):

Bengal: Manoj Tiwary (captain), Sudip Chatterjee (vice-captain), Abhimanyu Easwaran, Shreevats Goswami (wk), Anustup Majumder, Abhishek Raman, Aamir Gani, Pradipta Pramanik, Ashoke Dinda, Ishan Porel, Mukesh Kumar, Kanishk Seth, B. Amit, Writtick Chatterjee, Ritwik Roy Chowdhury and Saurabh Singh. 

Gujarat: Parthiv Patel (captain, wk), Priyank Panchal, Manpreet Juneja (vice-captain), Samit Gohel,  Rujul Bhatt, Chiragh Gandhi, Piyush Chawla, Bhargav Merai, Chintan Gaja, Siddharth Desai, Ishwar Chaudhary, Mehul Patel, Hardik Patel, Kamlesh Thakur and Dhruv Rawal (wk).

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