Bengal ahead in race for final berth
Bengal, who won their previous Ranji title during Sourav Ganguly’s debut season in 1989-90, would go for the kill to make their first final in 13 years. They had lost to Mumbai by 132 runs in their last final appearance in 2007.
Seven wickets stand between Bengal and a first Ranji Trophy final since 2006-07. For Karnataka the equation looks steeper: 254 more runs against a team that has not conceded more than 250 this season. The highest Karnataka have made in a successful fourth innings chase is 265/5 and that was nearly 20 years ago.
With deliveries coming in to batsmen, Ishan Porel, Akash Deep and Mukesh Kumar shared the spoils and because they were KL Rahul, Karun Nair and Ravikumar Samarth, Karnataka’s only century-maker this season, Bengal were upbeat on Monday which ended with the visitors on 98/3. Manish Pandey was batting on 11 with Devdutt Padikkal on 50, his first half-century in seven innings.
Porel removed Rahul in the innings’ second ball, the India batsman offering no stroke to a ball that jagged into his right leg after pitching. Samarth (27) too was adjudged leg-before after Bengal—following consultation between skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran, Manoj Tiwary and wicket-keeper Shreevats Goswami—sought the Decision Review System (DRS) to overturn the umpire’s decision.
About his pace bowling trio, Bengal coach Arun Lal said: “We don’t have a swing bowler like (Ashoke) Dinda but the accuracy of these three is commendable. The ability to get sharp movement off the wicket also keeps batsmen under pressure because that is not easy to decipher. And Porel is bowling really well; bowling deliveries that can get big batsmen out. He got (Hanuma) Vihari out here with one that reared off good length.”
For the fourth time this season, Shahbaz Ahmed and Anustup Majumdar bolstered Bengal’s total with a half-century partnership. It had happened against Odisha in the quarter-final, the duo rescuing Bengal with a 171-run stand for the seventh wicket, and in the Elite Group A game against Delhi. On Monday, they put on 61 for the seventh wicket which coupled with the 72-run collaboration in the first innings contributed to Karnataka needing 352 to win this semi-final.
Facing a hattrick ball from Ronit More who had dismissed Sudip Chatterjee and Goswami—he got a pair in the game—Ahmed punched it to the cover boundary. It was a shot Ahmed played well through this match; the best of the day being the four to off-spinner K Gowtham with an extra-cover and a fielder on the boundary. In the same over, Ahmed hit a six over long-on. He fell leg-before on 31 (40b; 4x4; 1x6) failing to connect a scoop off Gowtham. “Really indiscreet shot,” said Lal. “That’s not even a one-day shot, probably a T20 shot.”
Abhimanyu Mithun was rewarded for his industry with Deep’s wicket, the bouncer directed at his throat grazing the bat on way to wicket-keeper S Sharath. As if on cue, Majumdar tried changing gear but was stumped off Gowtham two balls after Sharath had missed a similar chance. After 149 not out in the first innings, Majumdar, having got an appeal for caught behind overturned on the fifth ball of Prasidh Krishna’s 13th over when he was on 12, made 41. Bengal, 72/4 overnight, were all out for 161.
“At least a 100 short. There was less juice in the wicket than the first day when the lower order got over 200. They bowled well but we should have shown greater application. We have given the opposition some breathing space but I would rather be in Bengal’s camp than theirs (Karnataka) now. Today, they (Karnataka) had a lot of play-and-misses. Maybe tomorrow (Tuesday) they will start edging and it will all be over. The intent, belief and energy are all there for us,” said Lal.
Bengal batted for 176 minutes on the third day but it could have been less had More not bowled a no-ball on which Chatterjee was out hit wicket. On 44 then, Chatterjee added one more to his tally but More’s indiscretion encapsulated a performance where Karnataka have been second best in all aspects.
Lal and Gowtham praised the DRS which is being used here without the snickometer and ball tracker. “Three or four decisions have been overturned for both sides so it is good for the game,” said Lal. “This is just the start, a good initiative from BCCI to lessen errors,” said Gowtham.
Bengal 312 and 161; 54.4 overs (Sudip Chatterjee 45, Anustup Majumdar 41, Shahbaz Ahmed 31; Abhimanyu Mithun 4/23, Krishnappa Gowtham 3/15). Karnataka 122 and 98/3; 38 overs (Devdutt Paddikkal 50 batting).