New Delhi: A lot will be at stake when Mumbai take on Bengal in the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium here on Monday.
Mumbai, who have won the competition in 2003-04 and 2006-07, will look to end the domestic season on a high. On the other hand, if Bengal are able to clinch the title, it will be their first win since the tournament began in 2002-03.
Though both the teams have reached the final after a series of good results, Mumbai were more clinical in the latter stages of the tournament. After eking out two close victories (by four-wickets against Baroda and eight runs against Gujarat) in the West Zone league stage, the 39-time Ranji Trophy champions were more ruthless in the knock-out phase where they thrashed Karnataka by nine wickets in the quarter-finals and inflicted a 140-run defeat on Delhi in the semi-finals.
Bengal's road to the final has been different. After registering convincing wins in the round-robin matches of the East Zone against Orissa (seven wickets), Jharkhand (seven wickets) and Assam (69 runs), Bengal won a very close contest against Madhya Pradesh (15 runs) and Punjab (three wickets) in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
Bengal will pin their hopes on the in-form Wriddhiman Saha, their wicketkeeper, who is in a rich vein of form throughout the tournament. He will go into the final after scoring six consecutive half-centuries. Bengal will also hope that the tournament's highest run scorer (384 runs at an average of 128) comes good one more time. They will definitely miss the services of their paceman Ashok Dinda, whose eight wickets in four matches were instrumental in taking Bengal to the knockout stages. The win here will also be a big morale booster for skipper Sourav Ganguly, who is all set to lead his IPL team Pune Warriors in the absence of Yuvraj Singh.
For Mumbai, the form of Abhishek Nayar – who scored a rapid-fire 41-ball 72 in the semifinal against Delhi – will be a positive sign. The left-hander, with his wide stance at the crease, is capable of tormenting the opposition bowlers. With 265 runs in five matches, Wasim Jaffer will once be the mainstay of the Mumbai batting. They would want Jaffer to score another big knock to help them claim the title one more time.