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Bengal in command

- Dinda takes three, Lahiri two as Services struggle
Ashok Dinda claimed three for 75

New Delhi: Sourasish Lahiri had yet another fruitful day in office as Bengal kept alive their hopes of forcing a follow-on against the Services in their Ranji Trophy match at the Palam Ground on Saturday.

Chasing Bengal’s first innings score of 431, Services were 261 for six when stumps were drawn on Day 3, still 21 runs away from avoiding the follow on.

Barring Soumyaranjan Swain, who is going strong on 56, the Services have lost all their recognised batsmen.

However, with only a day left, Bengal have little chance of going for an outright win. They can only hope to get three points on the basis of gaining a first-innings lead.

Reduced to 123/5 early in the post-lunch session, Services looked all at sea before Swain and Vishnu Tiwari (71) batted sensibly to add 131 runs for the sixth wicket in 39.1 overs.

The pair looked good enough to take the battle to the Bengal camp before Sourasish had Tiwari trapped leg before.

On Day 2, Sourasish excelled with the bat (108) to help Bengal reach 431. On Saturday, he once again had the Services in trouble, this time with his off spin and ended the day with two for 62.

If the dismissal of Tiwari put Bengal back in the driver’s seat, no less important was the cheap dismissal of Yashpal Singh (11). Considered the Services’ best batsman, Yashpal was sent back early by Sourasish, stumped by Wriddhiman Saha.

“We are still in with a chance of forcing follow-onů they are 21 runs away and the tail is visible. I am happy with the way my bowlers bowled on a flat track like this,” said Bengal coach Ashok Malhotra.

In fact, at one point, Bengal did threaten to run through the Services batting. The hosts lost four wickets before lunch and then found their skipper Rajat Paliwal back in the pavilion, almost immediately after play was resumed.

Pacer Ashok Dinda was Bengal’s most successful bowler with three wickets, though at times, his line and length did not rise to the expected level. While credit is due to Dinda, it is also true that the Services batsmen were to be blamed for throwing their wickets.

The worst was opener Pratik Desai, who scored a strokeful 52 off 65 balls with the help of eight boundaries. But immediately after completing his half century, Desai slashed at a Dinda delivery, to be caught by Shib Shankar Paul at square leg.

The Services revival started only after Tiwari joined Swain at the wicket. Watched by chairman of the national selection committee, Sandeep Patil, the duo batted with great patience.

Knowing the pitch had little to offer to the bowlers, they gave away nothing. While Tiwari hit seven fours during the 150-ball knock, Swain has faced 175 deliveries so far and hit six fours.

If Dinda bowled gallantly on the lifeless track, so did Paul. He looked more effective in the morning session but was unlucky not to get the wicket of Desai, who was dropped by Rohan Banerjee.

Till an hour after the lunch session, Bengal were in complete command on a pitch that had nothing for the bowlers. The turn on offer was very slow, the edges were not carrying to the slip cordon but Dinda and Shib Paul plugged away like workhorses.

Pratik Desai and Anshul Gupta added 65 for the first wicket before Dinda struck with a short ball outside off. Anshul jabbed at it and the resulting lob was pouched by Anustup Majumdar at gully.