Sudip Chatterjee en route to his 96, at Eden
Gardens, on Wednesday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: Early wickets to snap the morning slumber, teasing fast-bowling to extract the ‘oohs and aahs’, two youngsters’ robust resolve, tragedy of a missed century, clatter of a sudden collapse, subtle episodes of sledging, Ashok Dinda’s quixotic shots, a noisy gang of 4000-odd spectators and Sourav Ganguly… Cricket was every bit complete at the Eden, on Wednesday.
The longer version of the game has always been the playground of the romantic, engaging the subjects in overlapping plots and subplots. When at its best, it makes the lazy format (according to the T20 die-hards) as lively as a cricket!
So as the 22-year-old Sudip Chatterjee went firmly on the front foot and shouldered arms to deliveries outside the off-stump, it elicited appreciation. Or when the 18-year-old Abhimanyu Easwaran overcame his early jitters to look solid in his frail frame, his stolen singles were also applauded.
Overall, Bengal’s loss of eight wickets en route the score of 274 ensured that Railways were not outplayed on the opening day of Ranji Trophy quarter-final match. As was the day’s trend, the game is evenly poised. It waits at just the perfect junction for a fresh take-off on Thursday.
Wriddhiman Saha (batting 60) and Dinda (batting 17) kept Bengal alive for at least a 300-plus total.
Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla lost the toss in testing circumstances. A lively green pitch, the windy assistance and some impressive fast bowling saw the home team limping early in the day. Comeback man Arindam Das was bowled through his gates and off the very next delivery, Subhomoy Das’ attempt to leave the ball resulted in an inside edge onto the stumps. Anureet Singh (4/75) was the destroyer.
At 3 for two within the first three overs, the Bengal dressing room must have been colder than what the outside temperature was. Standing at the crease was a left-handed batsman four first-class-matches-old and his partner, a school boyish right-hander who has played just two. But while many expected a surrender, defiance was the answer from Sudip and Abhimanyu.
They were contrasting in their presence. Sudip looked confident, Abhimanyu confused. But together they looked a pair determined to fight. They braved the bouncers, never ducking to pressure, and forged a 163-run partnership.
Abhimanyu’s 65 off 191 balls was a tale of survival. Sudip (96) missed his maiden first-class hundred by four runs when he edged one outside the off-stump. That was his only loose shot of the day. The sight of a heartbroken Sudip dragging himself off the ground was tragic, yet it championed the uncertainty that makes the game glorious.
Thereafter, Shukla (17) was looking in murderous mood, especially against counterpart Murali Kartik’s bowling. But his attempted sweep off Kartik ricocheted off Nitin Bhille standing at forward short-leg and was caught by ’keeper Mahesh Rawat.
Writtick Chatterjee (0), Sourashish Lahiri (2) and Sourav Sarkar (4) had ‘guest appearances’. Writtick may face the Match Referee’s action for showing dissent (standing at the crease) after the umpire adjudged him caught behind.
Railways have injury concerns as Nitin has a bruised shoulder while Anureet suffered cramps.
The patient crowd, a rarity, stayed put till the close of play. They made active participation in the day’s proceedings, applauding Bengal and barracking Railways. Dinda, at the end of the day’s play, rightly acknowledged their presence by waving his bat in all directions. Credit must also go to the CAB for making it so un-Ranji like.
But more than anything else, it was Sourav’s over three-hour stay at the ground that spoke volumes about the quality of play. The former India captain absorbed every bit of the action, seated near the boundary rope.
It was complete cricket, it was ‘first-class’ cricket.