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Bengal stare at defeat

Calcutta/Rajkot: Bengal’s away woes continue as they are staring at an outright defeat at the hands of Saurashtra in a Group A Ranji Trophy tie.

Wrong team selection, followed by pathetic batting performance, have pushed Bengal to the brink of yet another disappointment. Faced with an almost impossible target of 431, Bengal have been reduced to 65 for three, by the close of play, on the third day, on Monday. A determined Saurashtra, therefore, are closing in on a huge victory.

With captain Manoj Tiwary unable to bat in the second innings due to a serious back injury, the fragile Bengal batting doesn’t have the wherewithal to bat out an entire day on a track that has offered appreciable turn to left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and offie Kamlesh Makvana.

Earlier in the day, Saurashtra declared their second innings at 333 for eight, courtesy an unbeaten 118 by Sheldon Jackson, who hit 17 boundaries and a six in his 217-ball knock. The foundation of the Saurashtra innings was 116-run stand for the sixth wicket between Jackson and Aarpit Vasavada.

Iresh Saxena, once again, was the most successful bowler for Bengal. The left-arm spinner returned with figures of six for 133, which also earned and a best-ever match-haul of 11 for 150.

The Bengal batting, which has floundered on road during this season, again started on an ominous note with Arindam Das (4) being trapped leg before by medium pacer Saurya Sanandiya in the second over. Debabrata Das came in and banged three boundaries in T20 mode but offie Makvana sent him back, caught by Nayan Doshi. Debabrata could manage just 12.

Wriddhiman Saha, who had bailed Bengal out of trouble on the final day against Mumbai, wasn’t successful this time as Jadeja trapped him leg before with an arm ball, after the batsman had scored only 3.

At 28 for three, Rohan Banerjee (28 batting) and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala (18 batting) saw off the remaining 21 overs of the day, but their real test will be on Tuesday, the final day of the match, when they have to negotiate the Saurashtra spin-trio on a deteriorating pitch, that too without their best batsman.

If one of the overnight not out batsman gets dismissed on Tuesday morning, Laxmi Ratan Shukla will be the only one left with some knowledge of batting. After that, the Bengal tail will be exposed and expecting them to bat the day out will be too much even if you believe ‘impossible is nothing’.

With just seven points from five matches so far, Bengal's chances of making the next round is almost impossible. They haven't won a single tie so far, goofing up even in the home matches. It's almost certain that they will return empty handed from this tie as well. Bengal's remaining matches are against Hyderabad and Railways. Both are home matches, but with the form that the team have exhibited so far, it is futile to expect anything good from them. Coach Woorkeri Raman has a lot to ponder upon.