Services v Bengal, Ranji Trophy, Group B, 2nd day November 29, 2013

Lahiri carries Bengal beyond 400

Amit Shetty

Services 39 for 0 trail Bengal 431 (Arindam 165, Lahiri 108) by 392 runs

Allrounder Saurasish Lahiri made full use of a lifeless track, scoring a century which propelled Bengal to a respectable first innings score of 431 in 166.2 overs against Services, in the Group B encounter in Palam.

Lahiri, who struck his second first-class century, made 108 off 212 balls with 10 fours as Bengal managed their first 400-plus score of the season. Overnight centurion Arindam Das was out for 165 today, while captain Laxmi Shukla made a promising start before being dismissed for 28.

Offspinner T Koteswar Rao bowled 49 overs to finish with 4 for 123, while left-arm spinner Rahul Kanojia took 2 for 91. At stumps, Services reached 39 without loss in 11 overs. Openers Nakul Verma and Pratik Desai didn't face any trouble in the last hour of play.

If Lahiri was the batting hero of the day for Bengal, the inability of their batsmen to force the pace scoring runs - they finished with a run rate of 2.59 - definitely hurt their chances of closing in on 500. While the morning session yielded more than 100 runs, courtesy both Arindam and Lahiri, the proceedings slowed down in the post-lunch session when some of the middle-order batsmen wasted too many deliveries despite having the cushion of runs on the board.

Arindam and Lahiri added 55 runs for the fourth wicket before the veteran opener played for turn to a straighter one from Rao and was bowled. Arindam faced 306 balls, hitting 14 fours and a six.

Lahiri however looked confident at the other end, finding gaps with ease. He looked confident against the spin trio of legspinner Desai, offspinner Rao and left-arm spinner Kanojia, using his feet well. Most of his boundaries came from cover drives, although he hit a good-looking straight drive off pacer Irfan Khan.

Lahiri was lucky when on 96, when Kanojia dropped a sitter at the deep midwicket boundary off Rao's bowling. He completed his century with a push towards short cover off Kanojia's bowling.

Captain Shukla showed some intent but two other specialist batsmen Anushtup Majumdar (8 off 45) and Sandipan Das (9 off 45) consumed 15 overs between them, which produced only 17 runs. If Bengal fell short by at least 50 runs, the slow batting of these two and opener Rohan Banerjee (42 off 169 balls) was the prime reason. Even Iresh Saxena (8 off 52) was seen patting long hops back to the bowler, as crucial time was wasted.

Services need another 393 runs in 180 overs over the next two days to get three points, but Bengal will expect that their spinners Lahiri and Saxena make use of the low and slow nature of the track in order to manage three points from this game.