Ranji Trophy: Bengal eyeing outright win against Rajasthan

Having put up an inspiring show in their previous game, Bengal will look for an outright win when they face a struggling Rajasthan in their first home match of the Ranji Trophy cricket beginning here on Thursday.

Kolkata: Having put up an inspiring show in their previous game, Bengal will look for an outright win when they face a struggling Rajasthan in their first home match of the Ranji Trophy cricket beginning here on Thursday.

Staring at an innings defeat, Bengal rode on skipper Manoj Tiwary's 20th first class century and debutant Naved Ahmed's impressive 95 to secure a draw and return with one point in their Ranji Trophy opener.

The young Rajasthan team, without its regular skipper Pankaj Singh was rattled in Assam who secured an innings and 152-run win in the last round.

Bengal have prepared a rank turner at the Eden Gardens and are mulling a three-spinner option against the two-time former champions whose preparation this season has been topsy-turvy due to factionalism in RCA.

The RCA was suspended by the Board for having elected Lalit Modi as its president and their Ranji participation in the domestic season could only happen after some players moved court, which then appointed a committee.

For Bengal, this would be a perfect opportunity to tighten the noose around the inexperienced Ashok Menaria, even as they will miss the services of veteran allrounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla who's ruled out for six weeks with a ligament tear.

Being a medium pace all-rounder, Shukla's absence would mean Bengal would struggle to get their combination right especially if they're thinking of a three-spin attack.

"It's a big loss for the team. He's capable of bowling 15-20 overs to make the captain's job easier. We will miss his experience," skipper Tiwary said.

At the same time, Bengal would look forward to the return of promising opener Abhimanyu Easwaran as he along with Naved, fresh from his 95 in Bengaluru, would look to give the team a solid foundation.

"Abhimanyu is technically very sound and we saw how impressive he was last season. He lends solidity atop the order," Tiwary said.

Bengal have drafted in left-arm spinner Pradipta Pramanik and it remains to be seen whether he would be handed debut to bowl alongside Pragyan Ojha and offie Aamir Gani.

The former India spinner was innocuous against Karnataka and returned with one wicket from his 41 overs, but skipper Tiwary backed the Hyderabadi recruit.

"We know he's a match winner and is capable of running through a line-up. It's just a matter of one or two good spells... He's working very hard at the moment."

Meanwhile, there's some rain forecast over the next few days and the Eden groundsmen, who're without regular curator Probir Mukherjee, are set for a big test.

Mukherjee has stopped coming after the India-South Africa T20I was called off without a ball being bowled because of wet outfield and the pitch for the match is being prepared by his assistant Shankarshan Pal.

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