Match Preview – Bengal vs Saurashtra, Ranji Trophy 2022/23, Final

Match Preview - Bengal vs Saurashtra, Ranji Trophy 2022/23, Final

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 famously remembered for 17-year-old Sourav Ganguly replacing older brother Snehasish in the final.

Bengal have reached three more finals since, without much luck. On Thursday, they will play their fourth final since that triumph, looking to avoid the mistakes they made in 2019-20, against the same opponents, Saurashtra.

There’s one difference, though. This time, like they did in that 1989-90 triumph, they will be playing the final at their beloved Eden Gardens, looking to channel the spirit that once made them a feared team. Arun Lal, Sambaran Bannerjee, Utpal Chatterjee and Ashok Malhotra, all heroes from that campaign, went on to have stellar domestic careers.

This young Bengal brigade, 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 second-best, having played each of the three finals Bengal lost. Having already announced this could be his last, should they win, Tiwary has an opportunity to firmly establish his legacy as a captain and player.

Saurashtra have a rich cricketing history but entering the Ranji Trophy final is something they have only been able to consistently achieve over the past decade. This one 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 is a team that doesn’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 channel a limited resources in the best possible way. It also explains why they are a close-knit unit that everyone takes great pride in playing for. 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

Player to watch out for – 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.

In Unadkat’s absence due to national commitments, Chetan Sakariya took on the role of leading the Saurashtra attack. He troubled Karnataka’s top-order on a surface with a hint of moisture in Bengaluru, but it was his contribution with the bat in the second innings – a cameo of 24 – that helped them overcome jitters and seal a tense victory in the semi-final. Sakariya’s improved fitness and pace has lent a new dimension to a solid attack.

Team news and Possible XIs:

Bengal have everyone fit and available.

Bengal: 1 Abhimanyu Easwaran, 2 Karan Lal, 3 Sudip Kumar Gharami, 4 Anustup Majumdar, 5 Manoj Tiwary (capt), 6 Shahbaz Ahmed, 7 Abishek Porel (wk), 8 Pradipta Pramanik, 9 Akash Deep, 10 Mukesh Kumar, 11 Ishan Porel

Saurashtra will welcome the return of Unadkat, who missed the quarterfinals and 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 with their strong pace battery – Mukesh, Akash Deep and Porel – all in good form. Not surprisingly, the Eden Gardens curators have prepared a greenish-looking surface that could aid swing and seam. It’s extremely different to the pitch Saurashtra prepared in Rajkot when the two sides last 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 Anustup Majumdar (790), Sudip Kumar Gharami (789) and Abhimanyu Easwaran (782) are all within touching distance.
  • Arpit Vasavada’s 826 runs this season are the third most for Saurashtra in a Ranji season, behind Cheteshwar Pujara’s 906 in 2008-09 and Sheldon Jackson’s 853 runs 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.


“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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