Ranji Trophy: Bengal`s task cut out against Pujara-fortified Saurashtra
Kolkata: Struggling to get their acts together, Bengal`s task is cut out when they face group B leaders Saurashtra, who will be boosted by the return of India international Cheteshwar Pujara, in their Ranji Trophy match beginning here from Thursday.
Pujara, who featured against Rajasthan in the only match of the season, got back amongst runs and is fresh from a century against the West Indies in Sachin Tendulkar`s farewell Test last week.
Leading the table with 11 points, Saurashtra come here on the back of a double century by their number six left-hander Aarpit Vasavada, against Uttar Pradesh in the last match.
The highlight of the match was Saurashtra`s lower-order which performed handsomely with centuries from skipper Jaydev Shah and Kamlesh Makvana besides Vasavada`s double ton.
Pujara`s return will only calm the nerves as Saurashtra`s run-hungry batsmen will look to make full use of the Eden wicket that eases out after the early morning moisture.
Saurashtra have an outright victory against Rajasthan in the opening match while they conceded first innings lead to the Railways in the second encounter.
After an inspiring three away points against Rajasthan, Bengal slipped at home against Madhya Pradesh to concede a first innings lead as their batting is yet to overcome the absence of Manoj Tiwary, something coach Ashok Malhotra lamented on Wednesday.
"He would score about 800 runs every season, we have to find somebody to score as many runs," he said of Tiwary who had been ruled out because of an injury.
The coach, however, said they were confident to put up a good show and added they would retain the XI that played against MP.
In such a scenario, Bengal batsmen will draw some confidence from the fact that their top five scored some runs in the second essay against MP to avoid a defeat.
Bengal have brought in uncapped Koushik Ghosh who batted long at the nets, but it is unlikely for him to get his maiden Ranji cap on Thursday.
With a green top on offer, it will be interesting to see how a struggling Ashok Dinda utilises the condition as was seen in the last match where veteran Sib Shankar Paul had the workload with the other two seamers not getting enough.
Bengal have five points from three matches.
Bengal: Laxmi Ratan Shukla (c), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Arindam Das, Rohan Banerjee, Anustup Majumdar, Sandipan Das, Subhamoy Das, Sourav Sarkar, Saurashish Lahiri, Sib Shankar Paul, Ashok Dinda, Arnab Nandi, Iresh Saxena, Koushik Ghosh and Monojit Ghosh.
Saurashtra: Jaydev Shah (c), Sitanshu Kotak, Sagar Jogiyani (wk), Cheteshwar Pujara, Sheldon Jackson, Aarpit Vasavada, Chirag Jani, Kamlesh Makwana, Vishal Joshi, Dharmendra Jadeja, Abhishek Bhat, Bhushan Chauhan, Shaurya Sanandia, Sandip Maniyar and Nayan Doshi.
Umpires: K Srinath, Ravi Subramanyam; Match Referee: Amit Sharma.