| Samad Fallah exults after dismissing a Bengal batsman in Indore, on Saturday. Picture by Prem Singh |
Indore: Fallah and fallacy were intertwined in such a deliciously deceptive cricketing whole that Saturday — the opening day of the Bengal-Maharashtra Ranji Trophy semi-final —closed with the promise of many a surprise over the next four days at the Holkar Stadium, here. Or less, maybe.
While a certain Samad Mohammed Fallah seemed Mitchell Johnson for half of the day, the Indore pitch looked like a clone of the one in Perth. The Bengal batsmen shivered, much more than the nippy Indore weather permitted, and were all out for a shameful 114.
But all such hyperbolic impressions seemed mere fallacy once Maharashtra went out to bat. Cover drives came thick and fast as the Bengal pacers ran for cover. The pitch looked innocent, the bowlers impatient and the batsmen confident.
Luckily for Bengal the day didn’t end with such a stark contrast and they did stage a mini comeback into the match. After falling for their lowest innings total of the season, Bengal have regained some of the lost ground. But just some as most of the advantageous territory still belongs to Maharashtra who closed the day at 164 for four. Ankit Bawne (batting 37) and captain Rohit Motwani (batting 8) will be resuming the innings on the second day.
With 14 wickets out of the 40 on offer tumbling on the first day itself, the five-day match is at present a little imbalanced, threatening to get over before play enters the final day.
Maharashtra, with a good 50-run lead and six more wickets at disposal, are certainly standing on a higher pedestal than Bengal. But to say that Laxmi Ratan Shukla’s side are out of the contest would be a little too much too soon. A good morning session on the second day can bring Bengal right back into the match.
Speaking of morning sessions, Saturday’s was one crazy session. With a brush of green on the pitch and more-than-average bounce on offer, the captain winning the toss would always have opted to test the opponent’s batting under fresh morning conditions. Motwani did just that.
But while common inference was that it was going to be a bowler-dominated session, little did anyone realise that the Maharashtra pacers would mince the Bengal batsmen into such fine fragments. It was almost as if the Fallahs had skipped breakfast and had the Shuklas instead to satisfy their appetite.
Bengal lost debutant Koushik Ghosh (1) as early as the third over of the day, bowled by Fallah. There was temporary calm thereafter as the experienced Arindam Das (37) and the young Abhimanyu Easwaran (11) negotiated dangers till the 12th over. But from the 13th over, the resistance melted into surrender as butter gives up in the frying pan.
Abhimanyu, Sudip Chatterjee (0), Wriddhiman Saha (29) and Shukla (14)… One by one the Bengal batsmen authored their ‘short’ stories in the middle. At the lunch break, Bengal were 83 for five. Fallah by then had claimed four of the five wickets to fall.
The left-arm pacer, who idolises Wasim Akram, moved the ball both ways and was almost unplayable while bowling round the wicket.
The post-lunch session was even worse for Bengal as they lasted less than an hour.
Fallah’s figures — 16.4-3-58-7 — were outstanding. Bengal’s batting — 114 all out in 41.4 overs --- was outmanoeuvred.
Then, as the Ashok Dindas and the Shib Shankar Pauls trotted onto the ground, one assumed that the famed Bengal pace attack would make the Maharashtra batsmen see nightmares in broad daylight.
Instead, Maharashtra openers Harshad Khadiwale (28) and Chirag Khurana (48) knocked the daylight out of the Dindas. They batted for 15 overs till tea and smashed 74 runs.
However, the post-tea session found Bengal regain some of their rhythm. Dinda and Shukla bowled their hearts out and picked two wickets each. Apart from Khadiwale and Khurana, Vijay Zol (1) and dangerman Kedar Jadhav (40) were the other wickets to fall.
Maharashtra could have ended the day five down had Koushik taken Motwani’s catch at gully off Dinda’s bowling.
Bengal cannot afford such misses. Not after they scored 114 when at least 500 has been scored in the first innings at this ground, this season. But Bengal have thrived in adversity in their last three matches. Mind it, no fallacy there.