Bengal's steady march and Mumbai's magical turnaround February 1, 2007

Road to the final

Sidharth Monga



Ranadeb Bose carried the torch for Bengal with his penetrative spells in the path to the final © AFP

The two teams could not have had more contrasting routes to the final. Bengal were steady throughout, with a couple of outright wins and no defeats. They had well laid-out plans and went about executing them quite professionally, spearheaded by the bowling of Ranadeb Bose and the batting of tyros Abhishek Jhunjhunwala and Manoj Tiwary. Mumbai's progress was far more dramatic: at one stage they were staring at relegation, before they scripted a quite amazing turnaround, winning their last three group matches.

Bengal

Round 1, v Punjab at Mohali

Bengal 156 (Dasgupta 78, Shukla 30; Gagandeep 4-36) and 148 (Jhunjhunwala 46, Ganguly 43; VRV Singh 4-53) beat Punjab 157 (Ricky 47; Bose 4-47, Ganguly 3-29) and 133 (Gupta 41, Dinda 5-57) by 14 runs

First morning in chilly Chandigarh, put in, and 18 for 5. Deep Dasgupta and Laxmi Ratan Shukla resurrected the innings, Dasgupta at his gritty best. Sourav Ganguly provided the crucial breakthroughs with the ball for Bose to mop up the tail. Ganguly played a quick cameo with the bat too to set up a competitive target. But it was Ashok Dinda, filling in for the injured Shib Shankar Paul, who provided the decisive blows in the second innings to provide a win that would contribute hugley, both arithmetically and psychologically, to their advance into knockouts.

Round 2, v Mumbai at Kolkata

Bengal 578 for 7 dec. (Tiwary 210*, Jhunjhunwala 114) drew with Mumbai 372 (Thakkar 157, Bose 5-69) and 23 for 0

A first in mutual history. Bengal enforcing a follow-on on Mumbai, Manoj Tiwary converting promise into numbers. Bose raised his game a notch, persisted on a dead Eden Gardens track, and ended up with figures of 34.1-14-69-5.

Round 4, v Gujarat at Kolkata

Gujarat 329 (Patel 103; Bose 4-65) and 302 for 4 (Bilikhia 122, Thaker 61*) drew with Bengal 326 (Shukla 93, Gavaskar 74; Majmudar 5-65)

If Punjab was a narrow escape, this time they conceded the first-innings lead by three runs. The game was always going to be a first-innings battle, and Bengal looked good with Shukla and Bose carrying them from 291 for 7 to 324, and then they collapsed to lose the next three wickets for only two runs. This loss of two points could have proved crucial in the end.

Round 5, v Maharashtra at Kolkata

Maharashtra 215 (68; Bose 5-60, Sarkar 4-71) and 308 for 4 dec. (Kanitkar 151*, Takawale 75) drew with Bengal 325 (Lahiri 54, Dasgupta 49) and 13 for 0

Losing the toss at Eden is not good news if you are a medium-pacer. Yet Bose and Sourav Sarkar, a 22-year-old debutant, somehow got Maharashtra out cheaply. The batsmen did nothing spectacular but all eight of them (Lahiri at No. 8) got starts and that was enough to get the first-innings lead.

Round 6, v Hyderabad at Hyderabad

Hyderabad 309 (Yadav 85; Dinda 4-78, Bose 3-44) and 76 (Bose 7-25) lost to Bengal 200 (Gavaskar 66; Absolem 5-52) and 188 for 6 (Dasgupta 50*) by four wickets

Bengal's most sensational result. Having fallen behind by more than 100 in the first innings in an away match, they came back with the resolve of champions. Bose this time changed identity: from a workhorse on flat tracks he became a destroyer, taking seven wickets in 20 second-innings overs for only 25 runs. The win restored them to the top of the table; they still needed to seal their place in the semis, though.

Round 7, v Rajasthan at Kolkata

Rajasthan 193 (Kanwat 62; Bose 6-34, Sarkar 4-78) and 328 (Doru 103, Sarkar 3-52) lost to Bengal 583 for 6 dec. (Tiwary 181, Ganguly 129, Jhunjhunwala 115) by an innings and 62 runs

Bose just couldn't do anything wrong. He and Sarkar, answered the captain's call of bowling first on an Eden Gardens track with typical bravery, and blew away Rajasthan. Tiwary, Ganguly, and Jhunjhunwala joined in the festivities to book that semis berth.

Semi-final, v Karnataka at Kolkata

Karnataka 89 (Bose 6-38, Sarkar 4-24) and 455 (Chipli 95, Raghu 85; Sarkar 4-87, Bose 4-116) lost to Bengal 238 (Das 88) and 307 for 4 (Tiwary 151, Jhunjhunwala 54)

Bose and Sarkar were lethal again on first day. Before Karnataka knew what hit them, they were bowling on Day One. Contrary to style, though, Bengal failed to close the game out in the first innings, giving Karnataka a glimmer which they used in the second innings to set an imposing target. But Tiwary again came to the party with his third score of 150-plus, as Bengal cruised to 307 for 4.



Ramesh Powar played a big part in Mumbai's maiden win © Getty Images

Mumbai

Round 2, v Bengal at Kolkata

Bengal 578 for 7 dec. (Tiwary 210*, Jhunjhunwala 114) drew with Mumbai 372 (Thakkar 157, Bose 5-69) and 23 for 0

Mumbai's young attack got ground into dust as the seniors Ramesh Powar and Nilesh Kulkarni failed to inspire. Nine bowlers were used, only seven wickets taken over more than two days. The inexperience in batting showed too, with only Bhavin Thakkar making any impression.

Round 3, v Punjab at Mohali

Punjab 353 (Dharmani 154; Hazare 5-83) and 113 for 3 drew with Mumbai 348 (Muzumdar 119, Mota 74, Amanpreet 4-72, Malhatra 4-91)

This was a cracker, even if only for the first-innings lead. From 139 for 5, Amol Muzumdar stitched partnership after partnership with the tail, and fell in freakish circumstances. Mudeep Mungela, No. 11, straight-drove Amanpreet Singh who got a touch on to the ball which hit the stumps at the non-striker's end, where Muzumdar was backing up too far. On his way back, Muzumdar wept.

Round 4, v Hyderabad at Hyderabad

Mumbai 115 (Arjun 4-21) and 268 (Sharma 95, Absolem 4-67, Ojha 4-7) lost to Hyderabad 354 (Powar 7-89) and 33 for 1 beat by 9 wickets

If Muzumdar had thought he had seen the worst, he was wrong. The batsmen hit a new low and the bowlers never reached threatening proportions, except for a lone battle put up by Ramesh Powar. Three matches, all three with the toughest sides of the group, one loss but no points. They needed inspiration which was not coming their way.

Round 5, v Gujarat at Mumbai

Mumbai 503 for 7 (Sharma 205, Nair 97) beat Gujarat 147 (Kulkarni 6-31) and 193 (Bilakhia 88; Powar 5-72, Kulkarni 4-80) by an innings and 163 runs

Their first home game and Mumbai found inspiration in a young batsman, a young allrounder, and two old spinners. Rohit Sharma finally got a first-class hundred - a double, at that - and, with the help of Abhishek Nair, put up enough for the spinners to come into play. With the Wankhede pitch assisting them, Nilesh Kulkarni and Powar became an imposing proposition, and Mumbai was alive again.

Round 6, v Rajasthan at Mumbai

Rajasthan 155 (Hazare 4-15, Nair 3-18) and 297 (Jadeja 70; Kulkarni 3-60) lost to Mumbai 483 (Muzumdar 117) by an innings and 31 runs

The pace bowlers got their act together this time and all of a sudden Mumbai started to look like contenders. After dismissing Rajasthan cheaply, they made enough - Muzumdar got a century - for bowlers to chip in towards a collective second-innings effort. Two wins with bonus points from both meant they were still alive and within a win of a semi-final berth.

Round 7, v Maharashtra at Nashik

Mumbai 515 for 8 dec. (Kukreja 114, Shah 112) beat Maharashtra 190 (Agarkar 5-41) and 171 (Kulkarni 6-43) by an innings and 154 runs

Losing to Maharashtra last year had hurt them the most, which is probably why they had reserved their most emphatic display for their junior neighbours. Youngsters Kukreja and Shah took them across 500. Ajit Agarkar, on a break from international cricket, forced Maharashtra to follow on, and Kulkarni showed his lethal side again, as Mumbai literally stormed into the semis.

Semi-final, v Baroda at Vadodara

Mumbai 233 (Muzumdar 97) and 145 (Samant 66; Pathan 4-47, Patel 4-34) beat Baroda 142 (Yusuf Pathan 70; Mota 3-15) and 173 (Mota 3-36) by 63 runs

The value of Muzumdar's 97 in the first innings was felt in the other three scores: 142, 145, and 173. But the semi-final win did not come without its twists. After securing a first-innings lead on a green top, Mumbai got off to the worst possible start in the second. Five ducks at the top of the order, and no run on the board; that was embarrassing. But their lower order had little time to think about embarrassments; they were busy collecting enough runs which would matter in the end and not the scoreline that once read: 5 for 0.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer of Cricinfo Magazine

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