Bengal's road to the Ranji Trophy Final

Batting their way to the final

Jamie Alter

January 28, 2006

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Eyeing their third Ranji Trophy title in their 12th appearance in the finals, Bengal take on a resurgent Uttar Pradesh tomorrow at Lucknow. With Mohammad Kaif, the captain, and Suresh Raina, both with recent international cricket experience under their belts, and the home advantage, UP look a balanced side. But Bengal, led by Deep Dasgupta, the former Indian wicketkeeper, have a strong batting line-up. Through individual and collective performances Bengal have outbatted most of their opposition in the past two months, and it's with this positive mindset that they will approach tomorrow's crucial encounter. On the eve of the final, Cricinfo takes a look at how Bengal got there over the 2005-06 season.



Five wickets and a fine hundred from Sourav Ganguly lit up Bengal's Ranji Trophy opener © Getty Images
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Maharashtra 350 (Munaf Patel 78, Sanclecha 54, Ganguly 5-75) & 249 (Lahiri 7-93) drew with Bengal 378 (Ganguly 159, Gavaskar 58) & 93 for 1
Scorecard
Bengal's Ranji Trophy opener will be remembered most for the hype surrounding the presence of Sourav Ganguly, recently dropped from India's one-day international side and determined to prove his fitness and form. Those that turned up at the Nehru Stadium in Pune witnessed Ganguly bag a five-wicket haul that help dismiss Maharashtra for 350 and then score a fine 159 to give Bengal a 28-run first-innings lead. In Maharashtra's second innings, Saurashish Lahiri, the young and very talented offspinner, took career-best figures of 7 for 93 and dismissed them for 249 before Bengal batted out the remaining 39 overs of the final day to finish on 93 for 1, content on securing a vital two points thanks to Ganguly's hundred.

Bengal 211(Gavaskar 54, Nanda 6-67) and 69 for 0 beat Delhi 148 (Paul 6-25) and 131(Lahiri 5-57) by 10 wickets
Scorecard
Bengal's first win of the season was a low-scoring affair dominated by the bowlers. Delhi, chose to bat and were bowled out for just 148 with Shib Paul, the promising opening bowler, taking 6 for 25 from 19 overs of nagging medium pace. Bengal too struggled for runs as Chaitanya Nanda turned it on with 6 for 67, but a dogged fifty from Rohan Gavaskar and 45 from Manoj Tiwary took them to 211 and secured crucial first-innings lead points. On the third day, however, Delhi really came a cropper as Lahiri opened the bowling and once again proved why he is a talent to watch out for by taking 5 for 57 to dismiss them for 131 and set Bengal up for an easy 10-wicket victory.

Bengal 171(Hazare 5-36) and 382 (Gavaskar 154, Arindam Das 70, Kulkarni 7-114) drew with Mumbai 244 (Muzumdar 105, Shetty 63, Dinda 5-80) and 81 for 1
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It was a drawn match at the Wankhede Stadium but Bengal conceded first-innings lead points to Mumbai after being bowled out for 171, with Lahiri top-scoring with 49 from No.3. Five wickets from Ashok Dinda, the right-arm medium pacer, could not stop Amol Muzumdar from hitting a fine hundred as Mumbai made 244, but in their second innings Bengal's strong batting line-up finally stood up. Gavaskar led the way with 154 - he would go on to become Bengal's highest run-scorer this season - and Arindam Das scored the first of his four fifties to take their side to 382, despite a superb 7 for 114 from Nilesh Kulkarni, the veteran Mumbai spinner and former India bowler.



Dedication and hard work saw Shib Paul reap 32 wickets this season, including a superb 6 for 25 in Bengal's maiden win © Getty Images
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Bengal 335 (Gavaskar 96, Arindam Das 56) and 286 for 7 (Tiwary 80, Shukla 78) drew with Karnataka 292 (Chipli 115, Lahiri 6-111)
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In another drawn match, Bengal clinched the first-inning points against Karnataka at Mysore thanks to fifties from Arindam Das and Gavaskar that took them to 335 before Lahiri stepped up again with a six-wicket haul to bowl out Karnataka for 292. Bengal batted out the final day to finish on 286 for 7, with Tiwary and Laxmi Ratan Shukla scoring fifties, as they reduced the gap between themselves and Mumbai, atop the Elite Group A.

Bengal 405 for 7 dec (Dasgupta 143, Jhunjhunwala 72, Arindam Das 64) drew with Gujarat 371 for 9 (Modi 76, Neeraj Patel 60, Thaker 52)
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Bat dominated ball for the better part of four days as Bengal and Gujarat batted just once without being dismissed on a docile Surat pitch. Led by Dasgupta's stoic 143 and fifties from Arindam Das and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Bengal racked up 462 for 9. Gujarat hit back with 370 for 9, with only Paul and Lahiri extracting any assistance from the lifeless pitch. There were, obviously, no points for either side.

Tamil Nadu 218 (Badani 67) and 423 for 7 decl (Badani 157*, Sriram 92, Vasudevadas 62) beat Bengal 145 (Ganguly 59, Jesuraj 5-40) and 274 (Ganguly 88, Jesuraj 6-76) by 222 runs
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The match gathered much attention because Ganguly - who had copped flak from Kiran More, the chairman of selectors, for skipping the match against Gujarat - was requested by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to play. The highlight of Bengal's whopping loss to Tamil Nadu at Kolkata was that Ganguly was not allowed to bowl after being repeatedly warned for running on the protected area of the pitch. In response to TN's first-innings 218, Bengal were dismissed for 145 with Ganguly top-scoring with 59. Bengal's bowlers then took a pasting as Hemang Badani and Sridharam Sriram took TN to 432 for 7 before Rajamani Jesuraj made it 11 wickets in the match to dismiss the hosts for 274. Ganguly again top-scored with 88 and departed for Pakistan having satisfied the BCCI on some level.



Deep Dasgupta's second hundred of the season enabled Bengal to outbat Baroda and clinch a place in the finals © Getty Images
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Bengal 278 (Arindam Das 70, Jhunjhunwala 55) and 306 for 5 (Jhunjhunwala 137, Subhomoy Das 83) beat Railways 259 (Saxena 65, Bose 5-55) and 321 for 6 (Pagnis 103, Goud 55) by 5 wickets
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Bengal progressed to the semi-finals with a five-wicket win over Railways at Kolkata saw. Ranadeb Bose, who had had an indifferent season, came to the fore with a five-wicket haul to dismiss Railways for 259 and fifties from Arindam Das and Jhunjhunwala then gave Bengal the first-innings lead. Railways - riding on a hundred from Amit Pagnis - declared their second innings on 321 for 6 but Bengal proved more than capable of overhauling this, Jhunjhunwala hitting a thrilling maiden first-class hundred to take his side to an outright victory.

Baroda 241 (Powar 116, Martin 51, Paul 5-83) and 252 for 8 (Williams 135*) drew with Bengal 617 (Subhomoy Das 115, Dasgupta 171, Shukla 141)
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In this batting fest at the Eden Gardens, Bengal drew with Baroda and made their way into the Ranji Trophy final for the first time since the 1993-94 season. Paul took a five-for and restricted Baroda to 241 before Bengal - despite losing Gavaskar to fever - batted for over three days and posted a mammoth 617 to secure the essential first-inning points. Subhomoy Das, Dasgupta and Shukla all scored hundreds, with Dasgupta and Shukla adding a record 314 for the sixth wicket, before a face-saving hundred from Connor Williams delayed the inevitable.

For a look at the Elite Group points table, click here

Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo

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Jamie Alter Senior sub-editor While teachers in high school droned on about Fukuyama and communism, young Jamie's mind tended to wander to Old Trafford and the MCG. Subsequently, having spent six years in the States - studying Political Science, then working for an insurance company - and having failed miserably at winning any cricket converts, he moved back to India. No such problem in Bangalore, where he can endlessly pontificate on a chinaman who turned it around with a flipper, and why Ricky Ponting is such a good hooker. These days he divides his time between playing office cricket and constant replenishments at one of the city's many pubs.
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