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Bengal snatch lifeline after innings win
- Ranji Trophy - Hosts brighten chances of staying in Elite Group with bonus against Hydrabad

Calcutta: A Bengal win was a strong possibility when the final dayís play against Hyderabad began at Eden Gardens on Friday. The home team made the success sweeter by securing a bonus point from this Ranji Trophy Elite Group A tie which handed them a lifeline to stay in the top tier of the domestic competition for one more season.

After a dismal start, Bengal have seven points (including the five earned against Hyderabad) from five matches thanks to the innings-and-one-run win with one more to go, against Gujarat in Ahmedabad from December 25.

The battle in this group to escape relegation to the Plate Division is now between Bengal, Assam and Rajasthan. One of the three will have to go down.

Rajasthan and Assam have four and two points, respectively, but play two more matches each. Taking into account the permutations and combinations, two points from the last match should keep Bengal in the Elite Group. They can stay in the top tier even without that if Assam or Rajasthan donít do exceedingly well. The bonus point Bengal earned against Hyderabad gives them that advantage.

Probably even Bengal didnít think the extra point would come their way. Only an innings win or a ten-wicket victory fetches the fifth point and after conceding a first-innings lead of 136, Hyderabad were all out for 135, nine balls after lunch. It was Bengalís first win at Eden Gardens after two years.

Even the home team didnít guess it would be so easy in the end. Resuming at 41 for two, Hyderabad lost the overnight duo of A.T. Rayudu and Faiaz Ahmed by the seventh over in the morning. Arjun Yadav and D. Vinaykumar resisted Bengal for the next 18 overs, after which the Hyderabad challenge went down with a whimper.

Sourashish Lahiri claimed four for 26 and completed 100 first class wickets in his 32nd outing. Utpal Chatterjee took three for 46 to return match-figures of 11 for 100 ó his eighth ten-wicket haul in Ranji Trophy. The wicket was helping spinners from the first day and Bengalís superiority in this department turned out to be a major advantage.

The Hyderabad batsmen didnít show the application required to delay the Bengal celebrations. Rayudu fell prey to the leg-side trap laid specifically for him against the short ball. With forward short-leg, mid-wicket, square-leg, backward square-leg and deep fine-leg awaiting a stroke from him against Shib Sankar Paul, the teenager played into the trap by hooking the seamer just behind square.

The much talked-about Rayudu is an exciting player, but must learn the art of curbing impetuosity. He had escaped getting dismissed in identical fashion in the same bowlerís earlier over and still repeated the mistake against a strengthened leg-side field.

Nightwatchman Faiaz fell in the next over, and Hyderabadís back was well and truly broken by then. Arjun and Vijaykumar battled for over an hour, and though the former displayed flashes of class, he succumbed to an attempted heave over mid-on. This raised visions of a bonus point for Bengal and they didnít let this opportunity slip. This extra point can go a long way in keeping Bengal in the Elite Group.

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