| Thakur scalped 4 Bengal batsmen at Eden on Monday
Calcutta: Bengal chose to turn generous hosts at the wrong time. They gifted Mumbai four points in Mondayís national one-day meet fixture at Eden Gardens.
Chasing 263 on a good wicket, Devang Gandhiís team slipped after having reached 213 for three after 40 overs, to lose the match by five runs.
The result left Mumbai on top of the table, though things may still change following the last set of matches to be played on Wednesday. Mumbai, Delhi and Bengal can all clinch it, but the home team will have to depend on what happens in the other match.
Mumbai, who completed their four matches, have 13 points with Bengal and Delhi on eight each from three. Both have to win their last outings with bonus points to stake their claim for the crown.
If Bengal get the bonus point and Delhi donít, Mumbai and Bengal will finish on 13 each. Mumbai will then edge out Bengal on the head-to-head count. The same rule will make Delhi the winners if they get the bonus point and Bengal donít. If both get the extra point, net run rate will settle the issue, as all three teams will end on 13 points.
The irony is, Bengal wasted such a great chance to render these calculations and complications meaningless. They didnít bowl and field as well as they had in the last two games, but still had things under control before losing their way while batting in the last ten overs.
The start was ideal as openers Nikhil Haldipur and Arindam Das put on 109 runs in 18.3 overs before the latter got a doubtful leg-before decision. The right-hander, who doesnít fancy the frills and concentrates on basics, had struck seven solid fours in his 60-ball 57.
Devang didnít click, but Haldipur maintained the momentum with Deep Dasgupta despite being troubled with a groin strain. The left-hander called in Arindam as runner and unfortunately, was run out as his opening partner went for a single which was not there. Haldipur made 78 off 98 balls with eight elegant fours.
This was the time when Bengal pressed the self-destruction button. Deep, Laxmi Ratan Shukla all perished going for shots, even though singles and twos was the need of the hour. Unknown medium-pacer Rahul Thakur claimed four wickets and Nilesh Kulkarni bowled some mean overs at the death to choke Bengalís progress.
A Bengal win was a strong possibility even after this as seven were needed from the last ten balls, with three wickets still intact. All they did after this was to lose all three in five balls. It was more of Bengal losing rather than Mumbai winning in the end, since the second-string bowling attack was far from menacing.
The Mumbai innings was built on two key stands in the beginning and in the end. Openers Vinayak Mane and Robin Morris survived a probing opening spell from Ranadeb Bose and put on 79 in the first 15 overs. Both failed to carry on for long and so did Vinod Kambli and Vineet Indulkar.
The acceleration was provided by Nisith Shetty and wicketkeeper Manish Bangera. The two added 62 off 44 balls in a brisk fifth-wicket stand which ensured a total above 250. Bengal did well to check the flow of runs in the last few overs, but in the end, moments of madness later in the day, undid the good job done earlier.
Haldipur may miss the last match on Wednesday because of a groin strain. His absence will weaken Bengalís top-order, already short on experience.