Ranji Trophy 2016-17: Bengal, Madhya Pradesh in ‘lose-lose’ situation

Things might have been easier for Bengal had Delhi’s air be cleaner and their fifth round game against Gujarat wasn’t called off.

Written by Vishal Menon | New Delhi | Published: December 10, 2016 1:26 pm
ranji trophy, ranji cricket, ranji score, cricket news, cricket Ankit Sharma’s unbeaten 90 was the cornerstone of MP’s reply. (Source: Express photo by Amit Mehra)

BENGAL CAPTAIN Manoj Tiwary might be nursing a legitimate grouse. With his team’s plea to reschedule its abandoned game not being entertained, Tiwary had reasons to be a tad aggrieved.

Ahead of their last league game against Madhya Pradesh at the Airforce Sports Complex in Palam, Bengal needed an outright win to progress to the knock-outs. Things might have been easier had Delhi’s air be cleaner and their fifth round, November 5 game against Gujarat wasn’t called off.

Madhya Pradesh too had their backs to the wall. With just one point more than Bengal, they too needed an outright win. At stumps on Day 3, the game seems to be heading for a draw. It certainly wasn’t a popular result.

Far away in Belgaum, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu would have followed the Bengal-MP game with utmost relish. Had either Bengal or MP scooped an outright win, both Tamil Nadu and Gujarat would have been skating on thin ice. On Friday, those fears was a thing of the past. After securing a first-innings lead, Tamil Nadu was sitting pretty on the third spot in the Group A points table. Gujarat having garnered a point more than them would be second. Defending champions Mumbai have already clinched a spot in the knock-outs. The top three teams from each group got to knock out.

On the first day, Bengal’s Ranji dream was alive. Winning the toss, Bengal made 475/9 with Shreevats Goswami scoring a double century. However, their slow run rate, plus the delayed start to the match due to fog, dented Bengal’s chances for qualification.

Going into the third day, they needed to get MP out twice to press for a win. A stubborn resistance lead by Ankit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey and an injured Naman Ojha (he was nursing a bruised finger) took MP 112 runs short with two wickets in the shed.

As things stand, Bengal might finish with a sizeable first innings lead, but going into the final day, they might just not have enough time to get enough runs on the board and then get get 10 MP wickets. In the end, three measly points would only take Bengal’s tally to 22 points — perilously close but not enough to clinch the deal.

Despite coming close to the knock-outs, both Bengal and Madhya Pradesh would take a lot of positives from this season’s campaign. Tiwary’s team of youngsters is a team in transistion and under coach Sairaj Bahutule, have gelled well. Barring their loss to Baroda on a spicy, green top at Lahli, Bengal have been by and large pretty competitive. It’s been their inconsistencies in their batting that have proved to be their undoing.

“This is a young team, and barring the game at Lahli, we have performed pretty well. The only area of concern has been our inconsistent batting,” Tiwary said before the game against Madhya Pradesh.

Madhya Pradesh too have played well in patches. The sore point for them this season would be their inability to seize vital junctures in the game.

Despite the absence of their talisman keeper-batsman Naman Ojha who has missed bulk of the matches due to an injury, their batting had held fort, and the performances of the three frontline pacers – Ishwar Pandey, Puneet Datey and Chandrakant Sakure bodes well for them in the upcoming seasons.

BRIEF SCORES: Bengal 475/9 decl (Shreevats Goswami 225, Abhimanyu Easwaran 80) vs Madhya Pradesh 363/8. (Ankit Sharma 90 not out; Ishwar Pandey 63; Naman Ojha 40 not out; Sayan Ghosh 4/87.)

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