Ranji Trophy: Desperate Bengal take on Gujarat

Kolkata: With weather threatening to rob the opening day's play, Bengal find themselves in a familiar tight spot against an in-form Gujarat in a home Ranji Trophy Elite fixture beginning here on Friday.

In their previous match, Bengal had taken a firm footing against Andhra but rain and bad light resulted in a truncated match and eventually the hosts had to settle for three points on basis of first innings lead.

Outside top-five in the elite cross pool, Bengal will have to keep a close eye on the skies with rain forecast for Friday. But the Arun Lal-mentored side will be desperate for full points against a team, who are on a roll with successive wins over Hyderabad away and Kerala at home.

"They are ahead of us in the table and that makes it more important. They are main contenders (to make the knockouts). We need points from every match. We should have got full points in the last match but you can't win in two-and-half days. It's tough for us. It depends a lot on weather," Lal said.

In Ashok Dinda's absence, who is out of the team on disciplinary grounds, 21-year-old Ishan Porel relished the challenge of being the de facto leader of Bengal's pace attack as he ripped apart the Andhra middle-order, picking up the wickets of Hanuma Vihari, Ricky Bhui and KS Bharat in a three-wicket burst.

Porel, however, could not carry on the momentum towards the end to let off Andhra, who managed to save the match after following-on.

In the batting department, Abhishek Raman, with two consecutive centuries, will be the one to watch out for, while skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran will also be desperate to return among runs before leaving for New Zealand tour with the India A side later this month.

Bengal will miss both Easwaran and Porel in the later stages of the premier domestic tournament as both are part of New Zealand-bound India A squad.

Bengal also might be tempted to hand a maiden Ranji cap to 24-year-old Ritwik Roy Chowdhury in place of a struggling Sudip Chatterjee.

The Parthiv Patel-led Gujarat also boast of talented opener Priyank Panchal, who scored a match-winning 90 against Hyderabad, while the experienced duo of Piyush Chawla and Axar Patel will lead the spin attack.

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