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Bengal batsmen falter again
- Uttar Pradesh bundle out hosts for 149

Calcutta: Bengal batsmen allowed Uttar Pradesh to grab the initiative on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy Super League tie at the Eden. On a wicket with a tinge of green but no appreciable bounce or pace, the home batsmen lacked the discipline and the technical wherewithal to survive.

At close, the visitors were 128 for two after having restricted the hosts to 149. The home team did not seem to have learnt their lessons from the debacle in Siliguri where poor batting had led to their defeat.

The batsmen have only themselves to blame for their disastrous showing. True, the Uttar Pradesh bowlers used the conditions perfectly but neither the wicket nor the bowling was responsible for the collapse.

Laxmi Ratan Shukla’s decision to bat first will be debated. Coach Bharat Arun, while defending the team decision, said: “It’s always good to bat first on the Eden wicket. It generally does a bit in the first hour.

“We survived that period and were 40 for no loss. All the wickets fell after that which means shot selection was poor.”

Manoj Tiwary and Kamal Hasan Mondal, however, were unhappy with umpire S. D. Ranade’s decisions and did not hesitate to make their displeasure known. In between, Ranadeb Bose and Praveen Kumar also got involved in a slanging match and the umpires had to step in.

After debutant Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (3/25) picked up both the openers, Praveen (3/51) dismissed Soham Ghosh and Manoj in successive overs. Captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla tried to put up a resistance till profligacy got the better of him. Piyush Chawla, whose variation often caught the batsmen in two minds, also picked up three wickets.

Bengal were reduced to 91 for eight and Sourashish Lahiri tried to arrest the slide with an unbeaten 40. He added 39 for the ninth wicket with Ranadeb and that gave the innings some respectability.

The early fall of Tanmay Srivastava had raised hopes of an Uttar Pradesh collapse but Rohit Srivastava (58) and Suresh Raina ensured there were no hiccups. The second wicket pair added 91 runs.

Both batsmen never looked in any trouble against an unimaginative attack. Ranadeb and Shib Shankar Paul often bowled the wrong line giving the batsmen enough opportunity to settle down. Even Lahiri, back after being dropped against Orissa, didn’t offer much hope.

Raina looked in fine touch during his unbeaten 55. There was not a false stroke during the 106 minutes spent at the crease and his presence was enough to evoke a sense of assurance in his teammates.

Raina was severe on Sourav Sarkar, preferred to Ashok Dinda in the XI. The left-hander hit him for three fours in an over — two pulled through square leg and the last a cover drive.

Bengal will have to get ride of Raina early to harbour hopes of a turnaround.

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