The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal at door of defeat

Calcutta: Only pride was at stake for Bengal in this Ranji Trophy elite group match against Andhra Pradesh. With two spineless outings with the bat, the home side ensured that barring a miracle, they wonít see that element in the kitty while reflecting on the season that is over for them.

At the end of Day 3 of what is the last match of the season for both teams, Andhra were 88 runs short of an away win with all ten second innings wickets standing.

Earlier on Monday, Bengal got the last two first-innings wickets 40 minutes into the morning, but appeared completely disinterested in the task ahead. Even a stand of 173 couldnít push the total beyond 237.

Trailing by 130, Bengal lost the openers by the fifth over with 12 on the board before Devang Gandhi and Deep Dasgupta came together for the third wicket. Devang cracked an attractive 102 and Deep battled grimly for his 66 but the centurionís dismissal in the over before tea signalled the end of resistance.

This time, the capitulation was even more embarrassing, considering Andhraís principal spinner Mohammed Faiq was out with back pain. He didnít bowl a single over in the second innings and the only bowler who looked able enough to trouble first-class batsmen, K.S. Shahabuddin, got just one wicket. But the Bengal big guns cut a sorry figure against under-19 seamer Kalyan Krishna and unheralded off-spinner Hemal Vatekar.

Though the odd one kept a shade low, there was no purchase for bowlers from the wicket. Even the quality of bowling was mediocre at best, if not below-par. Bengalís surrender was a shameful exhibition of irresponsible batting and, more annoyingly, it laid bare the flaws in temperament of some senior players.

Like in the first innings, the Bengal batsmen looked reluctant to apply themselves, despite witnessing the benefit of just that during the Andhra innings. Resuming at 285 for eight, the Vatekar-Faiq pair completed their century partnership in quick time. Runs came at a first clip as 44 were added in 7.1 overs in the morning.

Bengal got off to a familiar start. Nikhil Haldipur tried to test if mid-on was alive and perished after being dropped at second slip off the previous delivery. Arindam Das made a mess of a hook and ballooned a catch to fine leg.

Devang, however, was in good touch from the first ball. A flicked four announced there was more to follow and the India discard played some crisp, clean shots. With boundaries coming fairly regularly, the Andhra skipper started setting defensive fields for Devang though it didnít stem the flow of runs. His 11th Ranji hundred came from 143 balls and contained 13 well-timed boundaries.

Deep, coming in at No. 4 ahead of Rohan Gavaskar, had a torrid time during Shahabuddinís opening spell. But he started getting better with the ball losing its shine and looked game for the grind. The duo had almost cleared fears of an outright defeat when Devang moved too far across to be bowled around his legs by Vatekar.

Rohan showed that he has serious shortcomings in feet movement and played the spinner from the crease to be castled two balls later. Bengal were back in the dumps. Subhomoy Das, Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Utpal Chatterjee all perished to reckless shots and Bengal lost the last eight wickets for 82 runs, in 24 overs.

Match fee deducted

Apart from losing points and pride, the Bengal team also lost 30 per cent of its match fees for slow bowling rate. This was confirmed by Match Referee T.D. Chatterjee.

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