The pitch at the Green Park stadium has not looked this good for a domestic match in recent memory. A solid surface with a bit of grass promises equal opportunities to both bowlers and batsmen.
There were smiling faces in the Uttar Pradesh camp when seamers Praveen Kumar and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar gave team-mates the thumbs-up sign after examining the pitch before a practice session. Skipper Mohammad Kaif too thought the strip was a ‘perfect four-day match pitch’.
UP, who have beaten Bengal in two previous meetings in the last three years, will be playing their last league match of the Elite Group ‘B’. In 2005-06 UP just managed a 14-run first-innings lead to win their maiden Ranji Trophy at Lucknow, and a year later they crushed the Bengal by an innings and 152 runs at Eden Gardens.
Since then, things have changed for both sides. It’s a do-or-die battle for UP though they are placed second in their group with 13 points and a loss here might end their chances of making it to the knockout. Bengal (9 pts), however, have a home match against Delhi next, so even three points will be enough to keep their hopes of a quarterfinal berth alive.
Bengal will take heart from the presence of Sourav Ganguly, who skipped previous away matches against Maharashtra and Saurashtra. Only last year Ganguly made a gutsy 87 against South Africa here, so the ground will hold fond memories for him.
UP: M. Kaif (capt), T Srivastava, Bhuvneshwar, A Khan, P Chawla, P Gupta, Praveen, Parvinder, S Shukla, RP Singh, R Srivastava, A Yadav, S Srivastava, Prashant, I Ahmed.
Bengal: LR Shukla (capt), A Das, D Dasgupta, M Tiwary, S Ganguly, R Gavaskar, W Saha, S Lahiri, R Bose, S Sarkar, I Saxena, R Banerjee, N Das, A Jhunjhunwala, D Chakraborty.