Ranji Trophy final: How Bengal can still do it

Saurashtra continued its rich batting form on a slow wicket, throwing a massive challenge to Bengal batsmen.

Bengal celebrates the wicket of Arpit Vasavada during the Ranji Trophy final against Saurashtra at the SCA Stadium in Rajkot on Tuesday.

Bengal celebrates the wicket of Arpit Vasavada during the Ranji Trophy final against Saurashtra at the SCA Stadium in Rajkot on Tuesday.   -  Vijay Soneji

Bengal captain Abhimanyu Easwaran said how belief is driving his side ahead of the big final. For the second day in a row, the side fought back in the last session against Saurashtra at the SCA stadium in Khandheri. Fast bowler Mukesh Kumar got rid of Cheteshwar Pujara and Prerak Mankad in a span of 10 balls to pull things back in the side's favour.

Now, the uphill task is to recover from the two-day fielding exhaustion to chase 400, or more. Saurashtra finished the day at 384/8.

Though Bengal coach Arun Lal feels his side is “fit” and they are all “modern-day cricketers” it will require a monumental effort from the batters, who haven’t really clicked this season.

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“If anybody thinks we are out of the game, you are perhaps mistaken. We haven’t batted well this season but this is a Ranji final and we need a team effort. We have done that as a bowling unit in the past. The wicket has not changed much. I think we can chase 400,” former Bengal cricketer Ranadeb Bose, who is currently the bowling coach, told Sportstar at the end of day’s play.

Being part of two Ranji finals, in 2005-06 and 1996-97, Bose knows how to pump them up. “It is difficult but come on, it’s the Ranij final and here nothing comes easy. Why would somebody give it to you easily? If you have to win Ranji, you have to score 400 or else there is no fun in playing.”

Mental strength from Lal

Cricket is an unpredictable game. And a few years ago, Bengal coach Lal’s life met with similar uncertainties. The former India and Bengal batsman is a cancer survivor and his story is inspirational for the side. On top of that, he — along with spin bowling coach Utpal Chatterjee — were part of the Bengal side that won Ranji in 1990.

“Ever since Lal ji entered the setup, good things have happened. When we heard his stories of surgery, recovery and the kind of physical and mental stress, the pain he went through, we were very inspired. I wish somebody had told me such inspiring stories when I was growing up as a player. It has rubbed off on this Bengal side. We are fortunate to have someone like him in the side,” said Bose.

No complaints against bowlers

The Bengal pacers — Mukesh, Akash Deep and Ishan Porel — bowled 38, 30 and 26 overs, respectively.

Easwaran didn’t use Porel much on day two, perhaps for the lack of bounce.

“I have no complaints. I keep telling them that you have got to be patient and disciplined in first-class cricket in India. If you want to do anything outstanding, it never happens. Not only here, there are many places in India where the wicket is pata. You won’t get a pace-friendly wicket everywhere. The only key is to bowl line-and-length.

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My bowlers have exceeded my expectations. I don’t think I have been this patient in my career. They have conceded 170 runs only with a batsman like Pujara on the other side. There were no wickets in two sessions but we again came back [like yesterday]. We knew that the good balls will come and wickets will fall. We just needed to wait. The delivery that Mukesh bowled to get Pujara was outstanding at that stage,” said Bose.

Past records at the ground

In the semifinal, Gujarat had scored 252 in the second innings, got Saurashtra all out for 274 in the third and at one point, looked in command of the match to chase down 327 in the fourth.

Against Tamil Nadu, Saurashtra had ended at 481 after Tamil Nadu’s 424.

Bengal needs to bat the entire day three, till the last session of day four to do something special.

There is still a lot to play for.

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