Ashok Dinda is a workhorse. At 33 years of age, an India recall appears beyond him. But he never minds putting in a shift for Bengal, irrespective of conditions. An Eden Gardens ‘greentop’ for this Bengal-Himachal Pradesh Ranji Trophy match turned out to be just hype. But Dinda returned with a five-for and kept his team’s hopes alive for a bonus-point win.
With a fiery spell on Thursday, Dinda rattled Himachal Pradesh’s lower- middle order on Friday morning. Resuming at 163 for five in their first innings, the visitors were all out for 206. In search of seven points, Bengal promptly enforced the follow-on, but more of that later.
Dinda bowled 9.3 overs – he had bowled three balls in this spell last evening before bad light stopped play – on the trot this morning, gave away 26 runs and took three wickets. His overall figures read 22-5-61-5: Dinda’s 24th five-wicket haul in First-Class cricket.
Ankush Bains was his first scalp of the day – an outswinger that took the edge and went to second slip. Then, he had Pankaj Jaiswal. The Himachal tail-ender tried to take on the Bengal medium pacer. A helicopter shot sent an off-cutter flying over the straight boundary. But Dinda responded with a slower delivery and had the batsman caught at long-off by Manoj Tiwary. Gurvinder Singh was done in by an outswinger, with ‘keeper Wriddhiman Saha taking his fifth catch of the innings.
In between, Dinda gave some lip to Rishi Dhawan and accorded him a robust send-off after Shami dismissed the Himachal Pradesh all-rounder. Dhawan couldn’t handle the extra bounce and chopped a back-of-a-length delivery on to his stumps. Dinda is one of the most consistent performers in domestic cricket. He already has 21 wickets from seven innings in the Ranji Trophy this term. His average is a shade over 13. But Indian cricket is now replete with 135-140kmph bowlers and age is not on Dinda’s side. It’s easy to become frustrated in such a scenario but the seamer hardly complains. “No point thinking about all these things. I just try to perform,” he said, adding: “It was the team management’s decision to play on this surface. We, the players, just have to play. That’s it. But just because there’s not enough grass, does it mean we will stop bowling?”
Himachal Pradesh showed resolve in their second innings and were 207 for two at stumps on Day Three. Only six more runs are needed to wipe off the deficit and make the hosts bat again.
After being dropped on 20 by Abhimanyu Easwaran off Shami, Prashant Chopra played a lovely innings and was unlucky to be given out leg before on 81. The opener had no option but to return disappointed. Bengal, on the other hand, took their protest to the umpires when a couple of decisions didn’t go their way. Captain Tiwary had a lengthy conversation with the match officials.
Brief scores: Bengal 419 all out vs Himachal Pradesh 206 all out in 56.2 overs (A Dinda 5/61, Md Shami 3/94) and 207/2 in 58 overs (P Chopra 81, P Khanduri 67*).