Tough tie for Bengal

Calcutta/Mumbai: Bengal and Mumbai face off in a crucial Group A Ranji Trophy league clash at the Cricket Club of India's Brabourne Stadium from Saturday.

Mumbai conceded the first innings lead to Hyderabad despite scoring 443.

Bengal, on the other hand, dropped vital catches and lost to Madhya Pradesh in Indore by 138 runs, their second outright defeat in four games.

The results have left Mumbai and Bengal third and fifth on the points table with seven and six points, respectively, in the nine-team group with the latter having played an extra game.

"We are looking forward to the game against Mumbai in a positive way. We know they are a good side. We have quality bowlers and we will look up to them to attack. We are looking forward to getting as many points as we can from this game," said Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary, who is fit to play after having missed the last match because of a finger injury.

Ashok Dinda will be unavailable because of his national commitments and Tiwary said the pace spearhead would be missed. "We will miss Dinda as he was bowling really well… We have Shami (Ahmed) on our side who got 11 wickets in the previous game, including a hat-trick… I will say we have a decent attack."

Tiwary was happy that some grass had been kept on the Brabourne pitch and rued the catches dropped by his side against MP on a green-top.

"There is a little bit of grass on the wicket which is good. In the match against MP, there was a lot of grass and it was a result-oriented pitch. We missed a few catches, otherwise the result would have been in our favour."

Bengal coach W. V. Raman said both teams have come to the game after suffering setbacks. "Both are coming after a reverse, in a way. It's a case of picking ourselves up."

About the absence of Dinda, Raman said the team was prepared for it. "It's part and parcel of cricket nowadays because so much cricket is being played."

The side will miss key batsman Anustup Majumdar because of an injury, said the former India opener.

Mumbai would be led by Rohit Sharma as regular captain Ajit Agarkar is not yet 100 per cent fit.

Sharma said both he and another key middle-order batsman, Surya Kumar Yadav, have recovered from their injuries.

"Agarkar is not going to play as he hasn't recovered yet. He feels he needs to bowl a lot more. He wants to be rested for one more game. Surya is fit. My forearm is okay. There's a small niggle but I should be fit to play tomorrow."

The home team has been boosted by the return of former captain Wasim Jaffer, who missed the previous three games because he had gone on the Haj. "He is a big boost to our batting unit. He brings with him such huge experience and skill. Hopefully, he will straightaway start scoring runs for us. He will open the batting for us," said the Mumbai skipper.

Sharma defended his bowlers who conceded over 700 runs to Hyderabad with two rookie batsmen Akshat Reddy and Hanuma Vihari scoring near double hundreds.

"We failed to get an outright victory in the last three games but I feel our bowlers did a good job. We played on flat wickets and there wasn't anything for the bowlers. Restricting Rajasthan to 470, I feel, was commendable because they were 270 for 2 on Day I," said Sharma.

"We came back strongly on the second day but they tried their best. I believe we have to be more consistent and, if we manage to do that, the results will favour us."

Sharma said the league table, in which Punjab are way ahead of the rest with 23 points, is otherwise very close and therefore the game against Bengal was very important.

"It looks pretty tight right now. This game will be very crucial for us. So we'll try and do well."

He expected the Brabourne wicket to help the fast bowlers as it always has a bit of bounce on it and has some grass too.

"There will be some help from the wicket. CCI wicket always offers some bounce and there will be something for the spinners on Day 3 and 4. This morning the wicket looked very hard and there's some grass on the wicket too. It's going to be a good track for the fast bowlers."

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