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Shami strikes, Ashish thwarts

Shami Ahmed (from left), Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Veer Pratap Singh, at the Eden, on Sunday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: On the eve of the their Ranji Trophy match against Hyderabad, Bengal coach Woorkeri Raman had warned about the unpredictability of the opponents.

“They have a lot of young players They are an unknown side and they can stun us,” Raman had said.

If ‘stun’ is the catchword, then Bengal surely have been left pretty stunned.

Whenever it appears that Bengal might gain an upper hand in the match, an unlikely hero from the opposition steps up to negate all the advantage.

Ashish Reddy, who was unheralded until now, is proving to be quite a nightmare for the hosts. If he had tormented the Bengal batsmen with his pace and swing on Saturday, Sunday saw him deliver again, this time with the bat.

After being reduced 116 for four, Ashish’s quickfire 42 (40 balls, 8x4) put the visitors in a strong position as they finished the day on 172 for seven. With three wickets in hand, it does not seem improbable that the visitors would add to their lead of 171. A target of above 220 might prove to be tricky enough on the green top against an inconsistent Bengal batting line-up.

Bengal bowlers, on the other hand, were guilty of letting the opposition off the hook.

After destroying Hyderabad in the first innings, pacer Shami Ahmed did the star turn once again for Bengal. He scalped four, while Laxmi Ratan Shuka (2/32) and Veer Pratap Singh (1/50) shared the other three wickets.

Apart from Ashish, captain Akshath Reddy was the other major contributor to the Hyderabad innings, scoring a fluent 49 (99 balls, 8x4). He was stopped by Veer Pratap’s sharp bouncer.

The Bengal bowlers executed the plans with efficiency to get rid of the Hyderabad top-order and were threatening to run through the innings until Ashish came to the crease.

Ashish had a simple plan. He took to counter attack and hit the bowlers all round the park. Along with Syed Quadri, he stitched together a partnership of 57 runs for the seventh-wicket. The duo batted for 14.4 overs and 80 minutes to rescue their team.

But when you live by the sword, you die by it. The right-hander tried to pull Shami and holed out to Arindam Das at mid-wicket. Syed (batting 21) and Mehdi Hassan (batting 1) were at the crease at the close of the second day’s play.

Earlier, Arindam’s (73, 178 balls, 7x4, 1x6) superb batting helped Bengal take a slender one-run first innings lead.

The opener batted with a lot of gumption to add 36 runs to his overnight total of 37. Interestingly, he scored one less of what Bengal had scored in the morning session.