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Umpires deny Assam victory
- Well-placed visitors stunned by decision to call off play

Calcutta: The game of cricket was humiliated at the Eden Gardens on Thursday. As Assam closed in on a historic outright victory over Bengal in their Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match, the umpires decided to step in and ensure that the visitors do not get four points.

Chasing 150 for a win on the fourth day, Assam were 130 for four with more than 20 overs to go and enough light to carry on play. Earlier, Bengal were all out an hour after lunch for 250.

Assam’s V. Sarvanan and Zakaria Zuffri were having no problem facing the bowlers and were keen to knock off the 20 runs needed for victory.

But to everyone’s surprise, umpires K. Murali (who was the manager of the Indian team during the recently concluded tri-series) and S.V. Ramani decided they had had enough and suspended the game and waited for the light to improve.

Even as the Assam players asked them to get on with the game, the umpires decided to call it off, at 4:13 pm, and ran for the safety of the umpires’ room.

With the stunned Assam boys standing by the boundary line, Match Referee Shirish Buch came out to explain the umpires’ decision.

“The umpires thought the players could get hurt if the game was carried on. That’s why they stopped it,” he said.

Buch, however, couldn’t explain why they went off despite the fact that any injury could happen only to the Assam batsmen, who were keen to play on.

When asked whether Bengal would be penalised for wasting time, the Match Referee answered in the negative. Bengal, incidentally, had bowled 25.2 of the allotted 46 overs in 156 minutes.

“Actually, Eden Gardens is a big ground and it takes time to bring the ball back when it goes past the ropes,” Buch said.

Quite an explanation, one must say!

While Bengal coach Karsan Ghavri rushed away to avoid the mediamen, Assam captain Sukhwinder Singh blasted the umpires.

“This happened to us only because we have a weaker association,” Sukhwinder told The Telegraph.

“Do you think the umpires would have done the same thing had Bengal were chasing and were so close to pull it off,” the dejected captain added.

He, however, said he has spoken to the Assam Cricket Association secretary Bikash Baruah and they will lodge an official complaint to the BCCI against the umpires.

Earlier in the day, the Bengal batsmen once again showed they lack the backbone to counter sustained pressure.

The visitors bowled a steady line and length and barring Laxmi Ratan Shukla (46) and Sanjib Sanyal (36), all the Bengal batsmen fared horribly.

Chasing 150, Assam lost a couple of wickets pretty early, thanks to Shib Sankar Paul (three for 38), who finished with eight wickets in the game.

But the Bengal bowlers had no answer to Kiran Pawar (31) and R. Satish’s onslaught. The pair put up 80 runs for the third wicket in quick time.

After Pawar got out, Satish (74 off 59 balls) took charge. Bengal captain Devang Gandhi tried a 7-2 field with pacers bowling, but Satish turned the ball onto the on-side for easy runs.

Bengal have two points from four games while Assam have two from three.

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