In favourable conditions, Ishan Porel was superb. The young Bengal fast-medium bowler opened the game for his team and then kept the bonus points hope alive, even though only 46 overs had been possible on the third day. Andhra lost seven wickets for 110 runs and if they fail to avoid the follow-on on the final day, they will bat to save the game.
Overnight rain forced a delayed start of the day. There was nip in the air, the sun played peek-a-boo and the green Eden Gardens pitch was a little damp to start with. In such difficult batting conditions, Hanuma Vihari was Andhra’s best bet. Porel, however, removed him with the ball of the day. It moved away off the good length, squared up Vihari a little, took the outside edge and went to Manoj Tiwary at second slip.
Ricky Bhui, the man in form after his back-to-back hundreds in the first two matches departed for a golden duck. The ball cut back sharply off the seam and caught him plumb in front. Bhui was beaten for pace. On a hat-trick, KS Bharat narrowly survived. But Porel removed him a couple of overs later, once again extracting seam movement that beat the batsman’s defence and trapped him leg-before.
Porel is in the India A squad for the upcoming tour of New Zealand. The Eden offered him New Zealand-like conditions and he was right on the money in his first two spells. Today, his first spell read: 12-4-24-3. It broke the back of Andhra’s batting. Porel’s final spell was a little wayward, which he admitted after the day’s play. In search of some extra yards of pace, he erred in line and length.
Porel has a natural outswinger. His inswing is a work in progress, but he has the ability to make the ball straighten, bowling from an angle. Conditions made his job a little easier, for he and his fast-bowling partners just had to hit the right line and length. “The challenge was to not get carried away. Discipline was the key here. We bowled well as a unit,” Porel said.
On a previous occasion, in a Deodhar Trophy match, he had accounted for Vihari with a bouncer. This time a full ball did the trick. “If you want to reach the next level, you have to pick big wickets. Vihari is a current India player and he could have taken the game away from us. As far as big wickets are concerned, he is (now) added to the list after Parthiv Patel, Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw,” Porel said.
Bengal unleashed Akash Deep and the youngster worked up good pace. But he is still very raw and bowled on both sides of the wicket. Andhra batsmen were too tentative to take the advantage. In fact, some of them didn’t look comfortable playing the fast bowler on the front foot. Akash got his maiden first-class wicket, when he had Karan Shinde caught behind.
CR Gnaneshwar was a reason why Andhra kept follow-on at arm’s length. Against Bengal’s first innings total of 289, the visitors needed 140 to avoid it and they finished the day still 30 runs adrift, with three wickets remaining. The Andhra opener remained unbeaten on 45, facing 148 balls and hitting only four boundaries.
After the day’s play, Porel spoke about the rub of the green that the batsman had – playing and missing several times. But on this pitch and on such a tough batting day, any batsman would have needed a bit of luck to survive. Some of his leaves were top-class. Even Porel admitted that.
B Ayyappa played as a ‘batting sub’ for the injured G Manish, who sustained right shoulder dislocation on the first day. Concussion subs are now legal in cricket, but a substitute for a player who didn’t suffer a head injury offered a novelty. Andhra manager Srinivas Raju told this paper that he requested match referee to allow them a substitute for the injured Manish. Match referee V Narayan Kutty agreed after getting the approval from Bengal captain Abhimanyu Easwaran.
Brief scores: Bengal 289 vs Andhra 110/7 (CR Gnaneshwar 45 not out; Ishan Porel 3/35)
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