|Manpreet Singh Gony
Mohali: When you cannot last a day with nine batsmen, there is either something wrong with the pitch, or the batsmen themselves are wrong. Whatever maybe the case for Bengal, but their outright defeat against Punjab is really baffling.
There’s no doubt that Punjab did put up a stellar show, notching up their second successive bonus point, thrashing their opponents by an innings and 27 runs on Monday.
But then that does not mean that Bengal had a wafer-thin line-up. Instead, it would only be apt to say that the Bengal XI were probably stronger than that of Punjab. And that is precisely the reason why the abject surrender is all the more surprising.
Beginning the day with their overnight score of 25 for one, Bengal were all out for 226 in 65 overs, with Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Wriddhiman Saha, again, trying to put up a fight with scores of 91 not out and 57 respectively. While Bengal scored 326 in their first essay, Punjab had scored a mammoth 579 for eight declared.
The moment Wriddhiman’s 197-minute vigil ended, after being bowled by left-arm spinner Bipul Sharma, Bengal’s resistance ended with the tail showing no signs of resistance. So while Shukla was taking the attack back to the opposition camp, his teammates were busy going back to the pavilion.
Shukla’s 91 came off only 83 balls, with 12 fours and four sixes. Yet, the Best All-rounder of the Year (so says the BCCI) will remain not fit for Mahendra Singh Dhonis side. Not even in the T20s. the reasons are unknown, however.
From 213 for six, Bengal’s last four wickets fell for only 13 runs.
However the problem was not with the lower order as much as it was with the top-order. Needing to bat 90 overs in the day to at least get a point, it was simply poor batting by Bengal's top-order who lacked the requisite match-saving temperament.
Within the first hour of play, Bengal were reduced to 39 for five and the match, as a contest, was almost over. Captain Manoj Tiwary (30), along with Wriddhiman, added 63 runs for the sixth wicket and the Wriddhiman-Shukla partnership yielded 111 runs
India discard Manpreet Gony (5/41) and former India U-19 Siddharth Kaul (4/58) shared the bulk of spoils. Both bowl at a decent pace, but they are not frighteningly quick by any standards. So the bowling was certainly not unplayable, even though the pitch assisted the faster bowlers.
All through the day, the Bengal batsmen’s flop show was on display.
Opener Jayojit Basu flopped once again as he gave a catch to Karan Goel, off Kaul, to start the slide.
Youngsters Writam Porel (1) and Arnab Nandi (1) are finding the transition from club level to first-class level extremely difficult. Anustup Majumdar (4) had a breakthrough season last year, but hasn’t got a single innings of substance since he came back from the ‘A’ tour of New Zealand.
For Punjab, 14 points from two games is the perfect start to their campaign as their first target would be to make the knock-out stage.