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Arindam keeps Bengal on course
- Utpal finishes with career-best figures of eight for 54

Calcutta: Bengal needed a concerted effort to put it across Hyderabad and enhance chances of staying in the Ranji Trophy Elite Group. As it so happened on Day 2 at Eden Gardens on Wednesday, the oldest and youngest members of the team produced career-best performances to keep the home team within striking distance of gaining vital points.

The 39-year-old Utpal Chatterjee claimed eight for 54 — including all three this morning — and snipped off the Hyderabad tail in exactly an hour for the addition of 29 runs. The 22-year-old opener Arindam Das then showed the temperament not seen among Bengal batsmen this season to post an unbeaten 72 and took the tally to 153 for three — 99 short of Hyderabad’s challenge.

The complexion of the match can still change in the first hour of play on Thursday, considering the ball ‘does’ a bit in the opening session here and the new ball will be due after eight more overs. But as the Hyderabad camp confessed later, it’s advantage Bengal at the moment.

There were a few incidents. Most important from the point of view of the match was Hyderabad’s inability to extract the kind of turn Utpal managed. They were also let down by the absence of a third spinner following the pullout of Venkatapathy Raju and acting skipper Satish Yadav was the only one to turn the ball to an extent that would test the batsmen.

Bengal came up with their share of surprise as well. After a cautious and sensible start by Arindam and Nikhil Haldipur, which produced 52 runs in 22.5 overs, Bengal stunned all by bringing in Aniruddha Roy at No. 3. The wicketkeeper, who never batted before No. 7 in his two previous outings, lasted just one ball which doubled the pressure on Bengal.

Arindam was joined by Rohan Gavaskar at this stage. Progress was slow and the show painstaking for most part of this 87-run stand, but that was just what the doctor would have ordered for Bengal. Rohan curbed his instincts and chose to graft, while Arindam showed the sense of responsibility that was expected of him for some time.

The right-hander posted his maiden Ranji half-century in his seventh match and apart from a couple of injudicious swipes at away-going deliveries, showed a good sense of where his off stump was. Not one to get a long stride in against spinners, Arindam handled Satish’s big turn well, nudging and sweeping him with the spin. He was not always fluent, but appeared determined to hang on after getting his eye in. He has played 223 balls so far, hitting nine fours.

Nikhil and Rohan both should regret being dismissed after doing the hard work and taking a good look at the bowling. Nikhil was never tempted by anything outside off even with scant cover in the deep, but paid the price of misreading the line of one ball. He swept Satish successfully when the bowler was bowling over the wicket, but the latter hit his pad after coming around and the batsman had to leave. He was, though, not happy with the verdict.

Rohan showed he was well aware of the need of the hour and steadied the innings after the fall of two quick wickets. He resisted the temptation of driving Satish with the spin through the off side and concentrated on pushing the ball here and there. It looked as if he would stay till the end but a moment of madness cost him his wicket with eight overs remaining. Rohan jumped out to hit Satish out of the ground only to be stumped.

Satish was the pick of thebowlers and took all three wickets. He maintained a line on off and middle-off, hardly pitching anything wide and did full justice to his 6-3 on-side field.

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