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regular-article-logo Friday, 21 June 2024

Ranji Trophy: Onus on Bengal bowlers

Bengal bowlers need to ensure making optimum use of first hour of play on Friday if they have to make a match of it

Sayak Banerjee Calcutta Published 17.02.23, 04:23 AM
Bengal’s Shahbaz Ahmed during his innings of 69 on Day I of the Ranji final against Saurashtra at the Eden on Thursday.

Bengal’s Shahbaz Ahmed during his innings of 69 on Day I of the Ranji final against Saurashtra at the Eden on Thursday. Santosh Ghosh

The day began with Eden Gardens abuzz with excitement and anticipation as Bengal prepared to take on Saurashtra’s challenge in the final of the Ranji Trophy, a piece of silverware the home team had last won on these very hallowed grounds nearly 33 years ago.

The excitement and anticipation, however, dissipated for Bengal fans by the end of the day as Saurashtra, opting to field after winning the toss, made good use of a lively pitch to take a grip of the game.

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The pressure is on Bengal going into Day II while Saurashtra would come out with a better frame of mind after limiting the hosts to 174 and then reaching 81/2 at stumps on the first day.

This, after Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary had predicted a “one-sided game” in favour of his team.

“If this was to be a one-sided affair, we would’ve gone home by now,” Saurashtra coach Niraj Odedara retorted.

But for half-centuries from Shahbaz Ahmed (69) and keeper-batter Abishek Porel (50), who put on 101 runs for the seventh wicket, Bengal would have struggled to reach three figures. Following the batting capitulation, the bowlers too were wayward, allowing the Saurashtra batsmen easy runs during their reply.

It was only late in the final session that Akash Deep and Mukesh Kumar found the right length and got some purchase out of the pitch, picking up a wicket each. In complete contrast, Saurashtra captain Jaydev Unadkat (3/44), Chetan Sakariya (3/33) and their pace colleagues kept hitting the right areas even when the pitch was easing up.

Within the first 15 minutes of the game, Bengal were three down for only two and 34/5 thereafter. Abhimanyu Easwaran and Sudip Gharami showed no application whatsoever against Unadkat and Sakariya, while a loose shot from Tiwary earned the Saurashtra captain his second wicket.

Much to the visitors’ delight, Bengal’s crisis man Anustup Majumdar erred and was caught behind. The decision to hand a debut to Sumanta Gupta straightaway in a final and make him open in testing conditions backfired.

Bengal bowlers need to ensure making optimum use of the first hour of play on Friday if they have to make a match of it. They did discuss it in the dressing room after the day’s play, but they need to walk the talk.

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