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Bengal finish zonal leg in style

Calcutta: For the first time in the competition, Bengal produced a mediocre show with the bat to put up a meagre 121 for seven on the board.

But what Odisha dished out was even worse, enabling Bengal to register a nine-run victory, on Saturday, at the Eden, and finish the zonal leg of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy unbeaten. They also ensured that they enter the super league stage as the top side from the eastern zone.

It was another batting disaster for Odisha as they huffed and puffed their way to 112 for nine.

Keeping Odisha’s pathetic show with the bat aside, a major positive for Bengal from this game was their bowling. The likes of Sanjib Sanyal, Amir Gani and stand-in captain Sourashish Lahiri — regular skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla opted out — bowled plenty of dot balls that only added to the pressure on rival batsmen, who eventually caved in playing atrocious shots.

“We didn’t bat well today, but our bowlers did a very good job to compensate for it and win us the game. Overall, it was a good team effort. We’ve shown that if one department in our side falters, the other one is quite capable of rising to the occasion and right the wrongs,” Sourashish said.

Earlier, opting to bat, the new opening pair — Vivek Singh and Abhishek Das — couldn’t add more than 16 runs as debutant Abhishek, playing as a replacement for Shukla, was done in by a beauty from Basant Mohanty.

Vivek (38), though, continued to impress with his clean hitting. Coming in at No. 3, in-form batsman Wriddhiman Saha started in fine fashion before a mistimed stroke led to his dismissal, off the bowling of Lagnajit Samal.

Down with a stiff back, Manoj Tiwary, too, found the going difficult. Bengal could manage just 53 in the last 10 overs with Odisha spinners tightening things up with their wicket-to-wicket bowling. It was largely due to Arnab Nandi’s unbeaten 29 that they managed to cross 120. Given his performance so far in the tournament, Arnab is gradually growing into a dependable force in the Bengal middle order.

In reply, Odisha began on a decent note, but things started to tilt in the opposition’s favour once Sanjib cleaned up opener Paresh Patel. Once the reliable Natraj Behera, too, departed soon after, off the bowling of Pritam Chakraborty, runs dried up with the asking rate getting higher and higher.

Govind Podder (39) staged a fightback, but got no support from the other end before perishing to Gani. Post Govind’s departure, a Bengal victory was just a matter of time. Going into the super league as a confident unit, Bengal’s only concern at present is the shoulder injury to Ashok Dinda that occurred while he tried to prevent a boundary. According to the team management, the injury isn’t a serious one, but doubts do exist over whether he would be able to play Bengal’s first match of the main phase on April 8 versus Baroda.