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Bengal open account

Siliguri, Nov. 30: It wasnít easy, but it was sweet, to say the least.

Bengal finally opened their account in this yearís Ranji Trophy beating defending champions Railways by three wickets at the Kanchenjungha Stadium Saturday. And that helped them take revenge on the team, which had shown them the door in last seasonís semi-final at Delhi.

Finally, Bengalís lower middle-order came good. The decision to promote Laxmi Ratan Shukla (rumours of which had been doing the rounds for quite some time) paid rich dividends.

The all-rounder, coming in to bat at number six, played a superb unbeaten 41 (5x4, 1x6), to take the hosts to the target.

One can only be hope the think-tank persists with this tactic of having the all-rounder up the order in the forthcoming one-dayers in Agartala.

But credit should also go to veteran Utpal Chatterjee. He joined Laxmi when the score was 121 for seven, and the target of 154 looked a distant proposition. But as in many times in the past, Utpal was the calming influence on one end. His innings (12 not out) may not look too big going by the number of runs, but his role in helping Laxmi steer Bengal out of trouble was immeasurable.

However, the top order almost made a hash of a seemingly modest total. Commencing at 42 for one, Deep Dasgupta and Devang Gandhi took the score to 82.

But once Deep got out for 29, Bengal lost six wickets within a span of 49 runs.

The Bengal batsmen caved in to the off-spin of Kulamani Parida, who returned figures of five for 55. But the dogged resistance of Utpal and Laxmi helped Bengal garner two points and keep them floating.

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