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Bengal batsmen flop again
- ranji trophy l Haldipur, Shukla help hosts avoid humiliation

Calcutta: The time hasnít come yet to infer Bengal will be fighting a relegation battle. But the way things seemed on Monday, it might just become a possibility.

The consistency of Bengal batting has been one of the biggest concerns for coach Karsan Ghavri from the start of the season, and his wards proved on Monday that his worst fears were not misplaced.

A mediocre Assam attack bundled out the hosts for 246 before reaching 33 for one at stumps in the Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match at the Eden. Shib Sankar Paul gave Bengal something hope, removing Subhrajit Saikia with the last ball of the day.

Though the toss didnít go in Bengalís favour, they got what they wanted as Assam put the hosts in on a bit of a damp wicket with a greenish tinge to it. The ball did a bit in the first session, as it always does here, but that cannot explain the shocking shot selection of the top-order.

Left-arm pacer Goutam Datta kept the ball at the right place with Amitava Chakraborty and Devang Gandhi falling to shots across the line. It was zero for two in the first over. Subhamoy Das, who hasnít had a substantial score for some time now, was also scalped by Datta to make it 22 for three.

It was left to Nikhil Haldipur and Laxmi Ratan Shukla to do the repair job, and they didnít disappoint. Nikhil mentioned the other day he has worked on shot selection, and it was evident that he didnít make a bland comment. He showed the regulars in the Bengal team that if you put your head down and graft for a while, runs are in the offing.

Shukla, with scores of 81, 87 and 42 this season, showed once again why at one point he was considered among the best allrounders in the country. An A-team tri-series is round the corner, and a couple of wickets here and there, then who knowsÖ

The mediocrity of the Assam attack was for everyone to see as the two made the fielders run to every corner of the park. A 130-run stand in quick time and it seemed Assam will be have to do some serious leather hunt all day. But the tragic happened when a misunderstanding between Shukla and Nikhil saw the former being run out.

That didnít deter Nikhil from keeping the scoreboard ticking. But he seemed unlucky when given out caught at covers off a bump ball. Rookie íkeeper Aniruddha Roy looked in good touch, but fell to a poor shot. The rest didnít fight.

New-ball bowlers Paul and Ranadeb Bose tried their best to utilise the late afternoon juice that is always available on the Eden wicket, but the fielders did not help their cause.

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