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The Report by Amol Karhadkar at the Brabourne Stadium
December 4, 2012
Mumbai 297 (Jaffer 80, Nayar 62, Shukla 5-38, Saxena 4-105) and 294 for 5 dec (Shah 118, Nayar 73*) runs drew with Bengal 201 (Arindam 98, Chavan 4-61) and 198 for 7 (Banerjee 59, Arindam 54, Nayar 6-13)
Abhishek Nayar, the Mumbai allrounder, livened up the proceedings with a six-wicket haul as Mumbai made a push for an outright win against Bengal at the Brabourne stadium. However, Bengal survived Mumbai's charge and drew the match, earning a point for avoiding an outright loss after conceding a first-innings lead.
With Bengal needing 344 runs with all 10 wickets in hand while chasing a stiff target of 391 runs, the last day was set to be an entertaining affair. Even though the numbers indicated that Bengal were in with a chance to go for an outright victory, a greenish wicket that had gone slower as the game progressed and a fragile batting line-up meant only one team was in the hunt for six points.
But once the Bengal openers - Arindam Das and Rohan Banerjee, who survived a half chance in the third over of the day when Hiken Shah failed to pull off an acrobatic catch at third slip off Dhawal Kulkarni - raised Bengal's first century stand for the opening wicket this season, it seemed as if the rest of the day would turn into a drab draw.
With all the five specialist bowlers having failed to get the much-needed breakthrough, Mumbai's stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma threw the ball to Abhishek Nayar just before lunch. And Nayar lived up to his reputation of being the partnership-breaker by forcing an edge off left-hander Banerjee's bat just before lunch.
With Bengal having had three batting collapses in the first half of the season, it wasn't a surprise that Mumbai took the field after lunch with an aggressive mindset despite Bengal being 119 for 1. Nayar ensured they had every reason to hope for registering their maiden outright victory by getting Writam Porel to edge one to the wicketkeeper in the second over after lunch. In his next over, Nayar enticed Arindam into a drive. But the batsman could only manage an edge, completing a hat-trick of 'c Tare b Nayar' dismissals.
Nayar produced his best ball to get rid of Bengal's backbone Manoj Tiwary towards the end of an extended spell that read 12-6-12-4 on either side of lunch. Just as Tiwary was looking to break the shackles with a sweetly-timed cover drive, he shouldered arms to one that pitched well outside off. But the ball cut in off the seam and took the off stump out to put Mumbai on top.
Had Kshemal Waingankar not dropped a simple chance off Wriddhiman Saha at mid-on soon after, Nayar would have completed his deserving five-for and it would have also given Mumbai more than 40 overs to have a go at the Bengal late order. But once the chance had gone abegging, Saha dropped the anchor.
Saha got an able ally in Abhishek Jhunjhunwal after the fall of Subhomoy Das to left-arm spinner Ankeet Chavan, and the duo resisted the Mumbai bowlers' relentless onslaught for a long time. Eight balls before the mandatory overs to begin, Sharma took the last chance by taking the new ball
At the halfway stage of the 15 mandatory overs, Nayar, having changed the end, trapped Jhunjhunwala in front of the wickets to complete his fourth five-for and break the the stand that had last for more than hour and a half. Three balls later, he castled Laxmi Shukla to add more excitement. However, Saha and Veer Pratap Singh held fort as they survived the last 45 balls to help Bengal earn a point.
While Bengal, with a tally of seven points, head to Rajkot to take on Ravindra Jadeja's Saurashtra, Mumbai will host Punjab, who are on a roll this season, at the Wankhede Stadium from December 8.