AAMIR GANI rubbed his eyes in disbelief. He couldn’t believe what had just transpired in front of him. The Bengal off-spinner was in his third over when he got Jharkhand captain MS Dhoni to hole one to the deep long-on region where Ashok Dinda dropped an absolute sitter. The ball trickled onto the ropes, and with that shot, Dhoni moved into double figures and looked poised to cut loose. Jharkhand, chasing Bengal’s 329 to secure a spot in the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, needed their talisman to see them through. The all-too-familiar chants of ‘Dhoni Dhoni’ had resounded around the Ferozshah Kotla. And Dinda’s dropped catch got the sparse crowd back on their feet. All they wanted was to see their icon bat in their own backyard. On a blustery Saturday afternoon, their wish had come true.
The former Indian captain enthralled the sparse crowd with a typical innings — one that was punctuated with some blistering hits, and coupled by a fairly commonsensical approach. His 62-ball 70 contained four sixes, and as long as he was in the middle, Jharkhand sensed hope. His tepid exit in the 44th over, derailed his side’s chase, and with it ended their dreams of laying their hands on the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Having received a life early in the innings, Dhoni got into the groove, clubbing Gani for two huge sixes to kick-start their chase. However, after a rather sedate start upfront, it was his 97-run alliance for the fifth wicket with young Ishank Jaggi that kept his side in the hunt. The duo scored with a degree of flair, matched each other shot for shot, and were also brutal against Bengal’s spinners. Even after their captain’s exit, Jharkhand still harboured hopes with the presence of an in-form Jaggi.
The 28-year-old, with a IPL contract, and an impressive sequence of scores, has been one of his side’s stellar batting mainstays for his side in this tournament. However, Jaggi’s departure for 59, and coming after just seven deliveries after his captain exit, sealed Jharkhand’s hopes for good.
The foundation of Bengal’s impressive tally in the morning session was laid down by centuries from both their openers — Abhimanyu Eashwaran and Shreevats Goswami. Against Jharkhand’s one-dimensional bowling attack, the openers peeled off 198 runs in 34 overs.
Goswami’s departure for 101 pegged back Bengal’s scoring, as Eashwaran failed to up the ante as he too was approaching the three-figure mark.
The innings finally got the much-needed facelift, thanks to a brilliant cameo in the end by Bengal’s captain Manoj Tiwary. His unbeaten 75 came off just 49 deliveries, and he forged useful stands with Sudip Chatterjee and Agniv Pan to propel Bengal’s tally to 329.
Brief Scores: Bengal 329/4 in 50 overs. (Shreevats Goswami 101, Abhimanyu Eashwaran 101, Manoj Tiwary 75; Monu Kumar 1/40) defeated Jharkhand 288 (MS Dhoni 70, I Jaggi 59, Pragyan Ojha 5/71) by 41 runs.