Updated: March 2, 2020 8:43:03 am
In terms of profile, Karnataka’s batting belongs to the top rung in domestic cricket. A line-up that comprises the likes of Rahul, Karun Nair, Manish Pandey, R Samarth, and the up-and-coming Devdutt Padikkal surrendered tamely in their first innings against the Bengal pacers’ aggression. The hosts’ catching, too, was first-class. After Bengal’s first innings ended on 312 in the morning, Karnataka folded for 122. At 65/7, they were even staring at a follow-on. A Sunday crowd of close to 5,000 at Eden Gardens cheered the home team non-stop.
Porel bowled magnificently, consistently hitting the right areas, bowling at good pace and moving the ball sideways. He removed Samarth in the first over of Karnataka’s innings. The outswinger pitched on leg stump, but the batsman made the mistake of closing the face of the bat too early. The leading edge took the ball to Manoj Tiwary at second slip.
Nair got a beauty from Porel, with the ball pitching on a good length and leaving the batsman. Nair attempted an on-drive, instead of playing straight. The outside edge went to Anustup Majumdar at first slip. Porel’s other three victims – Padikkal, S Sharath and Abhimanyu Mithun – came from a couple of good outswingers and a bouncer respectively. He had 2/16 from six overs in his first spell followed by 3/23 from seven overs in his second. It was his third five-for in the Ranji Trophy.
When the Bengal team management decided to move on and dropped Ashok Dinda early into the Ranji season, the bowling leadership mantle was quietly passed on to Porel. At 21 years of age, it could have been a heavy cross to bear. He had a pretty average last season and needed to raise his game and the youngster has responded well.
Not that Porel has played every game this season. A tour to New Zealand with India A saw him miss a few Ranji Trophy matches. But whenever he played, he led from the front. Even with a heavily-strapped ankle in the quarterfinal against Odisha, he claimed three wickets in the first innings. Porel has taken his tally to 20 wickets from five matches, at an average less than 16. And he now has a new celebration, very Roberto Firmino-like, copied from the FIFA game on PlayStation 4.
“This has to be my best; a five-wicket haul in a Ranji Trophy semifinal. When we get the new ball, we go for the kill. If it doesn’t happen, we try to bowl in partnership and contain the run rate and not leak runs,” Porel said after the day’s play.
Bengal’s partnership bowling has proved to be so effective this season that head coach Arun Lal called his pace trio as the best in the business in domestic cricket. “We have the best bowling attack in the country. In any conditions, I want these three. As a unit, they are unmatched,” he said. Porel, Kumar and Akash now have 72 wickets between them this term.
On Sunday, they were relentless. Kumar cleaned up Pandey with an in-ducker that came back so much off the seam that the batsman, a regular in India’s white-ball set-up, barely had a clue. Then, the medium-pacer set a trap for Rahul by pushing the third man squarer and tempting him with a short ball a little wide outside off-stump. Rahul took the bait and was undone by the extra bounce. Abhishek Raman took a fine catch, running in and diving forward.
Akash removed KV Siddharth – Karnataka’s batting hero in the quarterfinal against Jammu & Kashmir – in his first over. In his second spell, he bounced out K Gowtham before dismissing Ronit More caught behind. Gowtham used the long handle and the 56-run eighth-wicket partnership helped Karnataka avoid the follow-on. But overall, the visitors so far have proved to be a letdown in the semifinal. They bowled the wrong length during Bengal’s first innings and allowed the tail to wag.
In fact, resuming at 275/9, Bengal added another 37 runs because the Karnataka pacers refused to bowl full and straight to Porel, targeting him with the short ball instead. Finally, when a full and straight delivery came, Porel was bowled.
In terms of batting, Karnataka looked iffy against Bengal’s pace attack. Their bowlers – the excellent Mithun to be precise – found the right line and length during Bengal’s second innings, but indiscipline still cost them. In the final over of the day, Prasidh Krishna had Majumdar caught behind, but the bowler had overstepped. Majumdar, who scored an unbeaten 149 in the first innings, could make Karnataka suffer.
After taking a 190-run first-innings lead, Bengal finished the day on 72/4. This is now their game to lose.
Brief Scores: Bengal 312 (Anustup Majumdar 149 not out; Ronit More 3/52, Abhimanyu Mithun 3/77) and 72/4 (Sudip Chatterjee 40 not out; Abhimanyu Mithun 3/9) vs Karnataka 122 (Ishan Porel 5/39, Akash Deep 3/30)
Karnataka took exception to a security breach that saw a fan invade the pitch and give Rahul a hug, as play was about to start after lunch. Then, Gowtham, who was fielding near the boundary, reportedly had to face abuse from the fans. It is learnt that the Karnataka team management complained to match referee Prakash Bhatt, who in turn asked the Cricket Association of Bengal to have extra security personnel at the ground from the third day onwards.
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