Calcutta: Bengal, runners-up in the past two seasons, were relegated from the Ranji Trophy Super League on Thursday.
Needing 214 runs to win against Andhra Pradesh and stay in the Elite division, Bengals batsmen collapsed for the second time inside three days losing the match by 101 runs at the Eden.
P. Vijay Kumar and part-time bowler Yalaka Gnaneswara Rao shared the hosts wickets in Bengals second innings, which yielded just 112, 14 runs better than their first-innings total.
The result, to an extent, was just desserts for Laxmi Ratan Shukla & Co. who looked a team that talked the talk, but never walked the walk throughout their Super League adventure.
With eight points from six matches, Bengal will now fight for pride in the Plate Division while Andhra, who got five points from the match to extend their tally to 17, will have to wait for the Uttar Pradesh-Hyderabad match to confirm their place in the semi-final.
Ranadeb Bose, the only player who looked like a man in the bunch of boys, brought Bengal back into the match, mopping up the Andhra tail within the first hour of Day III and returning second innings figures of 26.1-6-74-7. His match haul was 10 wickets for 121 runs.
Little did the bowler know at that time that his fighting efforts would be rendered null and void by his batting mates in the most contemptible manner. It was a horror show that haunted the team against Baroda, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh: It was something of a pathetic and spineless display that clearly suggested that the batsmen failed to learn from their mistakes.
Two particular dismissals in the second innings on Thursday — those of Arindam Das (9) and Manoj Tiwary (35) — captured the traits that marked Bengals date with the doom.
Opener Arindam, considered to be the best in the state, chased an almost sixth-stump delivery of P. Vijay Kumar and Tiwary, who is knocking on the India doors, attempted to pull Rao, missing the line completely to see his leg-stump uprooted. Inexplicable, one might say, but those dismissals also spoke volumes of their lack of application, mental toughness and the desire to fight against the odds.
Arindam and Tiwary might pat themselves by saying that their aggregates in the Super League were 379 and 465, respectively, but their bats never produced any gem under pressure.
Chasing 214, Bengal lost Arindams partner, Anustup Majumdar and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha in back-to-back deliveries of Vijay Kumars first over and the hosts never recovered from those early jolts.
Laxmi Ratan Shukla tried to stem the rot with a mixture of calculation and restraint.
His seven fours and one over boundary were nothing but a hopeless, hapless and eventually worthless attempt to blast his way out of the crisis. Bengal lasted for just 29.5 overs to script the black day in their cricketing history.