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Teams to play for pride
- RANJI TROPHY l Bengal, AP aim for 1st-innings lead on placid track

Calcutta: Bengal have nothing to lose but a little bit of pride to gain in what is certain to be their last outing in the 2002-03 Ranji Trophy season. In fact, it is the same for visitors Andhra Pradesh, the other similarity being both are on three points.

None can reach the semi-finals from this group, and apart from a major upset (Himachal Pradesh beating Raliways in Delhi), Bengal and Andhra are sure to stay in the elite division. The match beginning at the Eden Saturday is thus a pretty routine affair.

What, then, can be the motivation for the players in a match which offers so little in return' Experienced heads in the rival camps say pride and the wish to finish on a high are what they are looking forward to at the moment.

The moods are similartoo — forget the early disappointments and keep up the good work done in the last few matches. Bengal, for the record, snatched a point from Delhi in the previous match, while Andhra bagged the full two against Rajasthan in their last appearance.

Both are likely to go in with unchanged sides on a wicket which had a faint tinge of green on it on the match-eve. Still, the seasoned ones felt it would be a slow, batting track — drab, dull and usual. The team batting well should be looking for one point since bowling out the opposition twice seems very difficult.

“We want to ensure a point first, after which we will go all out for a win. But first-innings lead is very much the priority,” said Bengal coach Sambaran Banerjee. “The boys did well in Delhi and our aim now is to finish decently.”

Andhra skipper M.S.K. Prasad, the former India wicketkeeper, has some motivation though. An India berth still attracts him and he has been the team’s most successful batsman this season.

“Batting holds the key once again. Even though we are targeting one point, our batsmen have to do well to ensure that,” said Prasad, who has hit two hundreds this season. He feels his team should have done better than the results show. “Few, like the one against Delhi, was a close affair which we lost.”

Bengal, on the other hand will look forward to more than one or two contributions from the middle-order. Not that none got runs, but whenever they have, support from the other end has been at a premium.

Subhomoy Das has not really got the real, big scores this season. But still, the two half-centuries he got helped Bengal to a significant extent to secure the points. He will not mind a century to close out the season.

Nor will the likes of Ranadeb Bose, who has put in a few impressive spells, or comeback man Nikhil Haldipur. Out in the cold for most of the season, Haldipur has a great chance to prove the selectors wrong.

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