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An exciting final day on the cards

Calcutta: Leave aside the defending Ranji Trophy champions or the Bengal players who are in the reckoning for the national team, even the best of the Indian batsmen struggle on wickets with a fair sprinkling of grass.

The BCCI technical committee, then with Sourav Ganguly at the helm, had recommended that the pitches in domestic cricket must have grass and bounce to enable the players to perform on overseas tours.

It’s still unclear how much of a help this will be to the players, but their initial experience has been of struggle. The “juicy” Eden Gardens pitch has exposed the batsmen’s technical frailties while keeping the outcome in the balance at the end of the penultimate day.

Close to a session was lost on Sunday, too, and if the weather doesn’t play truant, it could still be anybody’s game. Bengal, having ensured a 97-run first innings lead, had stretched it to 206 by the close.

If Bengal — 109 for five in their second essay — could garner a lead of around 250 runs, they will be in with a chance to pocket six points unless the bowlers disappoint. A lot will also depend on how the Hrishikesh Kanitkars and the Robin Bishts respond to the challenge.

It’s still not clear whether Robin, who is nursing an injury on his right hand, will be able to bat on the final day. “We’ve always fought back when the chips have been down… That was the hallmark of our performance in the last couple of years. The first session will be crucial on Monday. We will try our level best,” said Bisht.

“The wicket will not be easy to bat on… It’s favouring the seamers and the weather is also playing its part,” he added.

Rajasthan made a mess of their batting in the first session on Sunday. Ashok Maneria needlessly chased an away going delivery to be caught by Manoj Tiwary on the second attempt at second slip, Rashmi Ranjan Parida nicked one behind the wicket and Dishant Yagnik was done in by one that jumped from the good length spot.

Madhur Khatri, though, played an entertaining knock of 49 that included ten boundaries. With Tiwary employing an attacking field, he picked the gaps with elan. He looked confident in his approach and was unnerved by the pace and movement. It was mainly because of him that they managed to reach 161.

Sourav Sarkar (4/62) was once again the most enterprising. He relied on the basics on this wicket and reaped the rewards for his disciplined line. Laxmi Ratan Shukla’s experience helped him in getting three wickets.

Ashok Dinda, despite his improved performance on Sunday, went wicketless in his 16 overs.

The Bengal batsmen fared no better in their second essay. You must have the ability to graft and show loads of patience on this wicket, traits which were missing among them.

Subhamoy Das couldn’t keep his gloves away from a Pankaj Singh delivery, but Jayojit Basu (48) and Writam Porel (37) added 75 runs to steady the innings, but the former was guilty of throwing away his wicket.

Jayojit, who survived when Kanitkar floored a straightforward chance on 24, was trapped leg before. Tiwary, under pressure to perform ahead of the Test selection on Monday, never looked to be in his elements.

The Bengal captain spent 43 minutes for his six runs before lunging out his bat to one from Pankaj that moved away. Yagnik was gifted with an easy nick and the disappointment was writ large on Tiwary’s face.

It wasn’t clear if the ball had brushed Anustup Majumdar’s gloves before landing in the ’keeper’s gloves. Shukla had a narrow escape when the umpire reversed his decision after TV replays showed that Yagnik hadn’t taken the catch neatly.

The batsmen’s technique will be put to the test on the final day and ability to survive in such circumstances will decide the course of the match.