Calcutta/Chennai: The start to the New Year couldn’t have been any better for Bengal.
They looked down and out, with Tamil Nadu requiring just 83 more to wrap up the game, after being strongly placed at 102 for one at the end of the second day. But Sourasish Lahiri, exploiting the Chepauk’s rank turner to perfection, wreaked havoc with a career-best seven for 62 as Bengal squeezed out a four-run victory, on Wednesday.
Bengal have virtually made the Ranji Trophy quarter finals, with Baroda on the verge of losing their match against Saurashtra, having conceded the first innings lead. Bengal finished with 24 points in Group B.
On the other hand, it was heartbreak for Tamil Nadu as they collapsed to 180 all out from a commanding 110 for one.
The victory comes as a major boost as it came on a pitch that was virtually kept under-prepared by the host association in order to ensure a smooth passage into the knock-out stage.
The move only for backfired for Tamil Nadu as Bengal spinners bowled their hearts out to get maximum purchase from the track, catching everyone by surprise.
Laxmi Ratan Shukla's inspiring captaincy, too, played a major role in the team going through a successful phase at the group stage after a long, long time. And for the day's hero, Sourasish, he found a perfect way to keep his critics quiet with this match-winning performance.
Sourasish, with match-figures of 10 for 95 picked up the vital wickets of Dinesh Karthik (62), Subramaniam Badrinath (21) and Baba Indrajith to set alarm bells ringing in the rival camp.
After picking up Karthik, who perished at mid-on, Sourasish accounted for Indrajith soon after. Skipper Lakshmipathy Balaji’s decision to promote himself didn’t work out as he was out for one, being adjudged plumb in front.
Vijay Shankar then tried to cut against turn as Gitimoy Basu took a good catch to give Sourasish his fifth victim.
Sourasish got his sixth when he had R. Prasanna caught by Gitimoy and picked up his seventh when Rahil Shah was taken by Writtick Chatterjee.
It was Malolan Rangarajan (11) and R. Aushik Srinivas (10) who added 22 runs for the final wicket before Writtick trapped Rangarajan to script a famous victory for Bengal.
Having reduced the home team to 158 for nine, it appeared as if Bengal’s victory was just a matter of time. But Rangarajan and Aushik Srinivas showed both grit and composure to keep the scoreboard ticking slowly.
They took Tamil Nadu’s total to 180 and it seemed as if their determination would pull off a terrific win. Bengal bowlers, too, started looking a bit rattled. But young Writtick stood up and delivered, signalling what could be the start of a new era for Bengal cricket.