|Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Sreevats Goswami, on Tuesday
Calcutta: This was no Basin Reserve or Adelaide Oval. Yet, the experienced Tamil Nadu batting line-up came a cropper against some controlled pace, swing and seam bowling on a greenish wicket, in the Vijay Hazare Trophy quarter-final tie, at the Eden.
Only a couple of days back, Ashok Dinda had sounded a warning to their rivals. On Tuesday, the Dinda-Mohammed Shami combination turned out to be the fear factor that left Tamil Nadu in tatters.
Not to be cowed down with only 167 to defend, the duo sent shock waves through the Tamil Nadu batting line-up, reducing them to 27 for five, by the time the pair had finished their opening spells. The innings was 13 overs old then, but the writing was on the wall.
Tamil Nadu never recovered as Veer Pratap Singh and Laxmi Ratan Shukla ensured the momentum was maintained. The visitors finally folded up for 90 in 33.5 overs, with the 77-run victory ensuring Bengal a spot in the semi-finals.
“Even after scoring 167, I was confident we could winů With a bowling line-up that has Shami and Dinda, everything is possible. I was worried at 139 for nine, but once we reached 167, I knew we had a match in our hands,” said coach Ashok Malhotra.
Shami was his usual self, bowling at an average pace of 140 kmph, picking up four for 25 in 8.5 overs. If the pace was disturbing, his variation on this wicket was also hard to pick. His first spell of 6-0-13-3 broke the backbone of Tamil Nadu innings.
Dinda’s three for 19 off nine overs showed that he’s still a force to reckon with. Keen to prove a point or two in front of the national selectors, he showed the zeal and motivation to succeed.
With the wicket offering enough lateral movement, the batsmen were left clueless against the discipline shown by Shami and Dinda. There were the familiar nudges to the slip cordon as the batsmen struggled against the swinging deliveries. One could only gauge the reasons for India’s disgraceful overseas record.
For batsmen used to scoring runs on belters in the domestic circuit, this was a sort of an eye opener. Only Murali Vijay — scoring at snail’s pace for his 24 — managed to offer some resistance while Subramaniam Badrinath, Dinesh Karthik and Ravichandran Ashwin perished quickly.
Badrinath was stunned by a sharp incoming delivery, Karthik could only manage a snick to an over ambitious shot and Ashwin’s wrong judgement proved costly.
The grass on the wicket was trimmed before the start. But that didn’t deter the pacers from extracting movement much to the chagrin of the batsmen.
That, however, was no reason for the Bengal top order to flounder, especially the likes of Sreevats Gaswami and Manoj Tiwary, who failed to build on their starts. Knowing well that batting under lights was going to be tricky, Laxmi Ratan Shukla didn’t have to think twice before deciding to bat.
Jayojit Basu failed to make use of the opportunity as he paid the price for chasing a delivery that would have missed the sixth stump. Talented Sudip Chatterjee then forgot the basics as the gap between his bat and pad was wide enough to clip off the bails.
Just when it seemed Sreevats and Manoj had begun the restructuring job, both fell victim to miscued strokes. In between, Wriddhiman Saha lasted only six balls. Shukla (30 off 50 balls) and Sourashish Lahiri (32 off 36 balls) did put in valiant efforts, but that was not enough for Bengal to reach the 200-mark.
Had the last-wicket pair of Sourashish and Dinda not added 28 in as many balls, Bengal would never have reached 167.
Dinda looked at ease during his brief stay at the wicket and exhibited the confidence that was missing from the Bengal ranks.