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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Ranji Trophy final: Saurashtra nudge ahead in crawl-fest

At the end of Day 3 in the Ranji Trophy final, Bengal need 292 more runs for the all-important first-innings lead while Saurashtra seemed better poised to take seven wickets first.

Written by Devendra Pandey | Rajkot |
Updated: March 12, 2020 8:40:24 am
Wriddhiman Saha and Sudip Chatterjee will resume batting for Bengal on Day 4, needing 292 runs to overtake Saurashtra’s 1st innings score. (Twitter/BCCIDomestic)

On a pitch that has consistently tilted each day’s final session towards the seamers and demanded a cautious crawl for the rest of the day, Saurashtra moved ahead in the contest at the end of day 3. Bengal need 292 more runs for the all-important first-innings lead while Saurashtra seemed better poised to take seven wickets first.

Two key events transpired in the final session where Bengal didn’t get a run off the bat in the last 59 minutes of play: Manoj Tiwary, their best batsman, was taken out and the final 30 minutes threw up reverse swing and invariable bounce more than before in the game, hinting more trouble awaits the batsmen.

Bengal have Sudip Chatterjee, under pressure after two lacklustre seasons but on a tenacious 45, and Wriddhiman Saha at the crease with Anustup Majumdar to bat but it will need grim persistence and resolve to get to that lead.

Bengal would take strength from the fact that they lost just one wicket, even if it was of Tiwary, in that intense session. However, the good thing for Saurashtra is that even if the conditions overtly favour bowlers only post tea on the fourth day, enough play has been seen to safely assume that the first two session would be a crawl again. It would take immense discipline and skills to survive the next two days to get the lead and it is only going to get tougher out there.

Saurashtra’s lower order had hung in there to add 38 runs on the third morning to reach 425 in their first innings. Bengal played out 65 overs to get to 134 for 3, 292 runs still adrift of the lead. His batsmen too showed similar determination after the second wicket fell at 35. Chatterjee and Manoj Tiwary showed commitment and smarts to do the job.

With the odd ball keeping low, the pair dead-batted anything that was on the middle-stump line. Since they didn’t have to worry about balls bouncing and ricocheting off gloves/edge to short leg, they chose to stretch forward to the seamers. Taking care, not to let the pad get in the way. The only problem is that to keep doing it for ball after ball, hour after hour, isn’t easy as Tiwary finally found out. He had some luck too as he was bowled off a no ball from Jani.

READ | Bengal coach Arun Lal fumes at slow, low pitch

It’s just not their batsmen who are familiar with the pitch, Saurashtra’s bowlers too are intimate with what’s needed of them to be successful here. Saurashtra started to drag Tiwary into playing away from the body. Jani was moving the ball both ways now. They moved the extra-cover fielder wider towards cover point. Tiwary had played a few good drives earlier and he now tried once, the ball squirted off the edge in the air but didn’t carry to the fielder. Then, Jani brought one in, and Tiwary pushed out at it, bat outside the line of the ball, and he was struck on the pads in front of the stumps.

There was a close call when Chatterjee was on 47; for once, he was trapped inside the crease and the ball hit the pad even as he tried to stab it out at the last instant. The umpire ruled it out after deliberating through a prolonged appeal but Chatterjee knew he had got an inside edge during the attempt to keep the ball out. Even without the snickometer or Hot Spot, the replays offered enough evidence to overrule the initial decision. By the end, nearly every ball had the potential to derail Bengal but the pair came through the stern examination. The bad news for Bengal is that they have to show similar intensity for two more days.

Brief Scores: Saurashtra 425 in 171.5 (Arpit Vasavda 106, Cheteshwar Pujara 66, Dharamendrasinh Jadeja 33; Akash Deep 4/98; Shahbaz Ahmed 3/103) lead Bengal 143/5 in 65 overs (Sudip Chatterjee 45 batting) by 291 runs.

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