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Rawat & Ghosh punish Bengal

Calcutta: The polar vortex of cold air from the Arctic has partly frozen the Niagara Falls, but what froze the Bengal bowling attack at the Eden on Thursday? For sure, it wasn’t the chill in the air.

So while there’s a logical explanation for why boiling water turned into snow in the US, there wasn’t any concrete reason why the Bengal bowlers, who looked red-hot till just after lunch, looked pale and frozen for the rest of the day.

At stumps on the second day of the Ranji Trophy quarter final, Railways, who at one stage resembled a burning train heading for disaster at 42 for five, had reached the station of safety with a score of 233 for five. At the crease were Mahesh Rawat (batting 105, off 125 balls) and Arindam Ghosh (batting 78, off 167 balls), the wheels which kept Railways on track and in the match.

After the hosts added 43 runs to their overnight score of 274 for eight before being bowled out within the first hour of play on the day, it was always going to be a testing time for the Railways batsmen as the freshness of the morning was still there for the bowlers to exploit.

A charged-up Ashok Dinda struck with the last delivery of his second over of the innings, the ball going through the gates of Railways opener Amit Paunikar. But while Dinda was lively with pace and movement, his new-ball partner Sourav Sarkar’s bowling was plastic, without a sharp edge.

Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla introduced Shib Shankar Paul into the attack early, replacing Sarkar. The 32-year-old Paul, who looks more a restaurateur than a fast bowler these days, surprisingly is still skilful enough to bamboozle the batsmen with the movement he extracts off the pitch.

By lunch, Railways were 36 for two. And within 15 minutes post lunch, they were 42 for five. While Dinda feasted on Paunikar (12), Nitin Bhille (20) and Karn Sharma (4), Paul accounted for Shivakant Shukla (6) and Rongsen Jonathan (0).

It was at this juncture that the Ghosh-Rawat partnership started. It was the 22nd over of the innings. Forty-six overs later, when the umpires called close of play, they were still undefeated, their unbeaten partnership 191 runs strong.

When Rawat walked in after the fall of the fifth wicket, he slammed Dinda for six boundaries of six consecutive deliveries (spread over two overs). It was this counterattack which unnerved Dinda and the rest of the Bengal bowlers.

Rawat has been driving force for the Railways this season. He has eight at least 50-plus scores in nine Ranji matches he has played this season. He aggregates 792 at an average of 79.20, with a highest score of 188. Ghosh, ironically a Bengal discard, is not far behind totalling 680 runs at an average of 75.55.

It’s still anybody’s match and, perhaps, the first-innings lead will not be as important as the game looks headed for an outright result. But the Bengal bowlers will have to introspect in order to advance.

Yes, the Eden pitch despite the grassy look isn’t much difficult for batting as the day progresses. But six bowlers failing to take a single wicket for 46 overs even after half the opposition has been dismissed, is a little too much.

The frozen Niagra Falls doesn’t really fall, but the frozen Bengal bowling attack fell… From great heights to ordinary plains.