Visakhapatnam: Just a few days back, Bengal looked to be a team lost somewhere between low self-confidence and patchy performances. Not only in the Ranji Trophy, their sorry show continued in the Vijay Hazare Trophy as well, a tournament which they won last season.
But as they say, every day is a new day. Thursday saw a totally transformed Bengal who excelled in every department of the game to blow away the challenge of Karnataka in a quarterfinal clash of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
It came as a surprise as Bengal registered a 10-wicket victory to march into the semi-finals, where they will meet Delhi. Karnataka, who by no stretch of imagination were pushovers, simply failed to find their game.
Invited to bat first, the Karnataka batsmen fell face first as they were bowled out for a paltry 127 in 32.1 overs. But if you think that it was because of the pitch, and not the Bengal bowlers, you will be far away from the truth. That’s because Bengal batted on the same pitch, didn’t lose a single wicket and reached the target in 28.3 overs. Also to be noted is the fact that the Karnataka team boasted of some reputed bowlers like Abhimanyu Mithun and Ranganath Vinay Kumar.
Sreevats Goswami (70 not out) and Wriddhiman Saha (52 not out) ensured that the chase was safe.
Laxmi Ratan Shukla won the toss and his decision to bowl first was proved to be a correct one as Shami Ahmed removed Karnataka opener Lokesh Rahul in the very first over itself. That was the beginning of the end.
Former India player Robin Uthappa, the other opener, did not manage to last long either as he fell for just 8 to pacer Veer Pratap Singh.
Veer Pratap is the latest addition to what has been a very impressive pace battery for Bengal of late. The youngster did not only remove Uthappa, he also got the wickets of Ganesh Satish and Manish Pandey.
With the top order removed, Bengal tightened their grip over the match as none of the Karnataka batsmen could find their feet. Manish was the top scorer with 28, while Karun Nair and Vinay Kumar contributed 22 and 20 respectively.
Like Veer Pratap, Shami too picked up three wickets. Captain Shukla continued with his good form as he got two wickets. Iresh Saxena and Sanjib Sanyal got a wicket each.
The chase was certainly not a difficult one, but given the lopsided batting that Bengal had displayed in the zonal leg, one was worried whether everything would be fine. But the openers, Sreevats and Wriddhiman, batted sensibly to take the team to semis.
Sreevats’ 79-ball knock had 10 boundaries and two sixes. Wriddhiman was the more patient of the two, hitting eight boundaries in his 93-ball innings.