Final, Eden Gardens, February 16 - 19, 2023, Ranji Trophy
174 & 241
(T:12) 404 & 14/1

Saurashtra won by 9 wickets

Player Of The Match
3/44 & 6/85
Player Of The Series
907 runs

Bengal aim to end 34-year wait against Saurashtra at Eden Gardens

Jaydev Unadkat returns as Saurashtra target their second title in three seasons

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Mukesh Kumar and Akash Deep will be key for Bengal on a green-tinged surface  •  Cricket Association of Bengal

Mukesh Kumar and Akash Deep will be key for Bengal on a green-tinged surface  •  Cricket Association of Bengal

Big picture

Bengal won their first Ranji Trophy title nearly a decade before independence, in 1938-39. It then took them over 50 years to get their hands on the trophy again, in 1989-90, a game remembered for 17-year-old Sourav Ganguly making his Ranji debut replacing older brother Snehasish in the final.
The team has reached three more finals since, without being able to finish the job. On Thursday, they will play the final again, hoping to avoid the mistakes they made in 2019-20, against the same opponents, Saurashtra, in their last appearance in the title round.
The big difference is that, like in that 1989-90 final, they will be playing the final at their beloved Eden Gardens, where they are usually a formidable team.
This young but experienced Bengal side, with the likes of Abhimanyu Easwaran, Shahbaz Ahmed, Mukesh Kumar, Sudip Kumar Gharami and Akash Deep, have a similar opportunity now. The man leading them, Manoj Tiwary, knows what it is like to come out second-best, having played each of the last three finals Bengal lost. Having already announced this could be his last season, should they win, Tiwary has an opportunity to firmly establish a lasting legacy in Bengal cricket.
Saurashtra have a rich cricketing history, too, but entering the Ranji Trophy final is something they have only been able to consistently achieve over the past decade. This will be their fifth final since 2012-13.
In 2019-20, they beat Bengal on a flat Rajkot pitch after taking the first-innings lead. It was fitting that Jaydev Unadkat, their captain who toiled on surfaces many described as roads, lifted the trophy after ending the season with a record-topping 67 wickets.
Saurashtra don't have the talent pool of Mumbai or the club structures of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It's a team that has often had to make use of limited resources in the best possible way. It also explains why they are a close-knit unit and why everyone takes great pride in playing for the team. A title win here will seal their status as the best first-class team in the country currently.

Current form (most-recent matches first)

Saurashtra: WWLLW
Bengal: WWLWW

Players to watch: Anustup Majumdar and Chetan Sakariya

Anustup Majumdar began playing first-class cricket in 2004, but it took him nearly 15 years to establish himself in the Bengal XI. At 38, he may be on his last lap, but he continues to be the team's crisis man with the bat. Three years ago, his back-to-the-wall century in the semi-final against Karnataka took Bengal into their first final since 2006-07. Here, he is again on the cusp of something special, having contributed all season with the bat.
When Unadkat has been away on national duty, Chetan Sakariya has taken on the role of leading the Saurashtra attack. He troubled Karnataka's top-order on a surface with a hint of moisture in Bengaluru in the semi-final, but it was his contribution with the bat in the second innings - a cameo of 24 - that helped them overcome big jitters and seal a tense victory. Sakariya's improved fitness and pace has lent a new dimension to a solid attack.

Team news and Possible XIs

Bengal have already announced their XI for the final. There is no place for Karan Lal, with Sumanta Gupta set to make his first-class debut as Abhimanyu's partner at the top, and Akash Ghatak, the quick bowler who made his debut this season, replacing left-arm spinner Pradipta Pramanik, who has 18 wickets from four games this season, including a five-for in the semi-final against Madhya Pradesh. Ghatak's entry makes it a four-man pace attack for Bengal.
Bengal 1 Abhimanyu Easwaran, 2 Sumanta Gupta, 3 Sudip Kumar Gharami, 4 Anustup Majumdar, 5 Manoj Tiwary (capt), 6 Shahbaz Ahmed, 7 Abishek Porel (wk), 8 Akash Ghatak, 9 Akash Deep, 10 Mukesh Kumar, 11 Ishan Porel
Saurashtra will welcome back Unadkat, who missed the quarter-finals and the semi-finals because he was part of India's Test squad, but has now been released for the final. Unadkat's return means that left-arm spinner Parth Bhut, who led Saurashtra's sensational turnaround against Punjab, could miss out.
Saurashtra: 1 Harvik Desai, 2 Snell Patel, 3 Vishwaraj Jadeja/Jay Gohil, 4 Sheldon Jackson, 5 Arpit Vasavada, 6 Chirag Jani, 7 Prerak Mankad, 8 Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, 9 Jaydev Unadkat, 10 Chetan Sakariya, 11 Yuvrajsinh Dodiya

Pitch and conditions

Fast bowling is Bengal's strength and their key quicks - Mukesh, Akash Deep and Porel - are all in good form. Not surprisingly, the Eden Gardens curators have prepared a greenish-looking surface. It's extremely different to the pitch Saurashtra prepared in Rajkot when the two sides met in the final of the 2019-20 season.

Stats that matter

  • Only twice in the Ranji Trophy have teams had three batters scoring 800-plus runs in a season: Hyderabad (1999-00) and Mumbai (2012-13). Bengal could be the third as Majumdar (790), Gharami (789) and Abhimanyu (782) are all within touching distance.
  • Arpit Vasavada's 826 runs this season is the third-most for Saurashtra in a Ranji season, behind Cheteshwar Pujara's 906 in 2008-09 and Sheldon Jackson's 853 in 2018-19. He has an opportunity to surpass them both in the final.
  • Bengal have conceded 300-plus just once this season, against Himachal while defending 472.
  • Quotes

    "The Ranji Trophy is a marathon. To make it for two finals in three seasons is a measure of our self-belief and winning mindset. We dream of winning titles regularly across formats. And we've backed it up with solid plans and work over half-a-decade."
    Saurashtra captain Jaydev Unadkat believes their recent success is no fluke.
    "I want my boys to stay grounded as we haven't yet won the big prize."
    Bengal coach Laxmi Ratan Shukla sounds a quiet warning to his team.

    Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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