Updated: March 2, 2020 11:58:01 pm
Ishan Porel’s delivery came back sharply off the deck and KL Rahul was caught in the crease. It was a very good ball to face so early in the innings, especially from a bowler like Porel, who is tall, has a high release and hits a disconcerting length. Rahul’s footwork was uncertain and he paid a price for it. The ball hit his back leg, catching him plumb in front. The Karnataka frontman departed for a two-ball duck, as his team was set a victory target of 352 by Bengal in the Ranji Trophy semifinal at Eden Gardens.
Rahul has had been in excellent form in limited overs internationals of late. But this game dropped a hint about his Test exclusion. The opener is yet to sort out his problems against incoming deliveries. Also, his footwork against the moving ball in seaming conditions remains iffy.
In the first innings also, he had played and missed a few times. Rahul never looked to be carrying his white-ball confidence in this match. He is too good a player not to overcome the difficulties and bounce back. But in a big game, where his team was looking up to him against a quality pace attack, Rahul failed.
In fact, no batsman from either side, save Anustup Majumdar and Manoj Tiwary, showed decisive footwork to counter the moving ball. Tiwary got out to poor shot selection in both innings. Majumdar yet again played a decent knock during Bengal’s second innings on the heels of his 149 not out at the first dig.
But what Majumdar did, the likes of Rahul, Karun Nair and Manish Pandey were expected to do better. They are proven performers at this level apart from having runs and centuries in international cricket under their belt. But Nair and Pandey, too, barely showed intent with their footwork. Nair got out leg-before to Mukesh Kumar, the ball coming back and trapping the batsman in front.
Pandey lived to fight another day after a shaky start. Several times the ball went past the outside edge, but as long as he is there, Karnataka would be in the game. The visitors finished the day on 98/3, still 254 runs adrift of the target.
Devdutt Padikkal’s unbeaten half-century was one positive they could take from the third day’s play. The left-hander had started the season on a high note, but hit a bump along the way. This half-century under pressure, after seven innings, has been a good effort. Padikkal played straight, offered the full face of the bat and tried to rotate the strike. He, too, had his share of playing and missing, but the youngster toughed it out.
5⃣0⃣: Devdutt Padikkal brings up his half-century as Karnataka move closer to 100 against Bengal. 👌👌
— BCCI Domestic (@BCCIdomestic) March 2, 2020
A tactical switch masterminded by Tiwary, when Karnataka had been building a decent second wicket partnership, was another highlight of the day. The former Bengal captain suffered a finger injury on Sunday and didn’t take the field when the innings started. But as the partnership grew, he had to go in, with his index finger heavily strapped. Till then, the Bengal bowlers were bowling a little wide outside the off stump, as the association between R Samarth and Padikkal took the score to 57 without much trouble. Tiwary came, stood at mid-off and told the bowlers to target the stumps.
The ball wasn’t reversing yet, but Bengal’s senior-most player had rightly sensed that the Karnataka batsmen, with their tentative footwork, could be candidates for LBWs. The ploy worked well. Akash Deep trapped Samarth leg-before, given out on referral. Nair, also, fell prey to a nip-backer.
The day saw two important DRS moments as well. Technology came in handy, as TV umpire Anil Chaudhary declared Samarth out. But, earlier, during Bengal’s second innings, the limited use of the DRS couldn’t pick the woody sound and Majumdar survived a caught behind against the bowling of Prasidh Krishna. Without a Snickometer it was almost impossible for Chaudhary to decide and the benefit of doubt went in the batsman’s favour. Karnataka players weren’t happy.
The BCCI took a step in the right direction by introducing the DRS for the Ranji Trophy semifinals and final. Its full use is desirable in the country’s premier domestic competition.
Thirteen years ago, Bengal had chased down 307 against Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy semifinal at Eden. This Karnataka batting has the wherewithal to surpass that effort. Then again, Bengal boast of arguably the best pace attack in domestic cricket and the visitors have never gone past 265 in a fourth-innings chase.
The game still remains Bengal’s to lose but the hosts would be disappointed not to put it to bed yet. Their poor batting display in the second innings, resulting in 161 all out – Abhimanyu Mithun and K Gowtham took four and three wickets respectively – has given Karnataka half-a-chance. The first session on Day Four is going to be important.
Bengal 312 and 161 (Sudip Chatterjee 45, Anustup Majumdar 41; Abhimanyu Mithun 4/23, K Gowtham 3/15) vs Karnataka 122 and 98/3 (Devdutt Padikkal 50 not out; Ishan Porel 1/19).
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