Railways v Bengal, Ranji Trophy, Group B, Delhi, 3rd day December 8, 2013

Bengal close in on Railways lead

The Report by Amit Shetty in Delhi

Bengal 252 for 7 (Laxmi Shukla 87*, Basu 56, Anureet 4-87) trail Railways 306 by 54 runs

Bengal captain Laxmi Shukla played a counter-attacking unbeaten innings of 87 to stand between Railways and three points in their group B encounter at the Jamia Millia ground.

At stumps on the third day, Bengal reached 252 for 7, needing another 55 runs to get that elusive three points. Railways bowlers will hoping for the early wicket of the gutsy Iresh Saxena (5*) on the fourth morning, as he proved to be a scrappy little customer, batting out 96 minutes in the final session.

In fact, Saxena proved to be an ideal foil for Shukla, who launched a swift yet brutal assault on the Railways bowlers, adding 54 runs for the unbroken eighth-wicket stand on a day which was dominated by Murali Kartik 'Mankading' out Bengal batsman, Sandipan Das.

Shukla's 130-ball innings had nine fours and two sixes - one over long off of Karn Sharma's bowling, and the other was a brilliant pull shot off Railways' most successful bowler, Anureet Singh, who finished with 4 for 87.

The Bengal skipper should consider himself lucky as he was dropped by Shivakant Shukla, when he was on 51. The unlucky bowler was Krishnakant Upadhyay. Shukla mistimed a pull shot which went high up in the air, with short cover fielder, Arindam Ghosh, coming under it.

But Shivakant sprinted from point and had hard hands by the time the ball landed, but the ball popped out soon after. Shukla had already started heading back to the pavilion, but to his utter disbelief saw the chance being dropped. It was for Shukla that Bengal managed to score 187 runs off 83 overs in the day, a significant step-up from 65 off 45 overs on the previous day.

A square drive and cut off Anureet stood out, while he also played a delicate lap shot off Karn's bowling. In the morning, Gitimoy and Subhomoy Das continued with their dogged defensive approach, which only saw the pressure increasing.

Finally, it was Subhomoy and Anustup who went in a space of three deliveries as Anureet bowled an incisive spell, getting the ball to move into the right-handers.

At 80 for 3, Sandipan came in and played a few strokes as 40 runs were added for the fourth wicket before things went sour. It was the last over before lunch, that Kartik 'Mankaded' Sandipan when the batsman had backed a bit too far. Umpire Milind Pathak referred to the third umpire who switched on the dreaded red light. Kartik had earlier warned Sandipan to stay inside the crease.