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Andhra find Rana too hot to handle
- Ranji Trophy
- Bengal dominate opening day of do-or-die match

Calcutta: Bengal put themselves in a position of strength, dismissing Andhra Pradesh for 121 runs in their most crucial Ranji Trophy Super League match at the Eden Tuesday.

Rana Chowdhury’s sparkling performance (6.2-1-13-4) broke the backbone of Andhra batting line-up while Ranadeb Bose and Shib Shankar Paul contributed with three and two wickets, respectively. At close on Day I, Bengal, who need an outright win to avoid relegation, made 46 for the loss of Anustup Majumdar’s wicket.

Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla asked the visitors to make first use of the new strip, which promised bounce and swing.

The start was delayed by 45 minutes due to the wet pitch, but it began so sweetly for the hosts. Paul and Ranadeb dismissed opener Hemal Watekar (seven) and Satya Kumar Verma (zero) in quick succession but the new-ball bowlers failed to keep the momentum going as Y. Gnaneswara Rao (20) and Prasad Reddy (21) attempted to pilot a recovery.

In the post-lunch session, the pendulum swung in Bengal’s favour. Rana’s left-arm medium pace from the High Court end, which the saw the balls pitching outside the off-stump and cut back in sharply, unsettled nerves of the Andhra middle-order.

Manoj Tiwary dropped Prasad Reddy at second slip off Rana’s first over, but it didn’t cost Bengal anyway as the medium-pacer castled the Andhra opener. In fact, Rana’s all four scalps — rival captain M.S.K. Prasad, D. Kalyankrishna and P. Vijay Kumar, apart from Reddy — saw similar dismissals, with the Andhra batsmen failing to negotiate the sharp in-cutters.

Playing his second Ranji match after his debut against Baroda, Rana sent Reddy and the Andhra captain in back-to-back overs. With the medium-pacers mopping up the tail on the stroke of tea, debutant Priyankar Mukherjee’s off-spin was not required.

Ashok Dinda ended top-scorer Bodapati Sumanth’s defiance, but he was clearly the weak link in the hosts’ attacking line. With the pitch doing all the tricks, he was found guilty of straying in line and length. He was bowling either straight which saw the balls getting clipped down the leg or way outside the off-stump.

Placed at the bottom of group B with just eight points, Bengal started cautiously aiming to build on a substantial lead. Anustup, however, had other ideas as he unnecessarily pulled Israel Raju only to be caught at deep fine leg. Arindam Das and Wriddhiman Saha, after a few plays and misses, survived the day.

Much of Bengal’s progress will now depend on how they negotiate Wednesday’s morning session on a pitch which promises to put the batsmen under a severe examination of patience and calculation.

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