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The Report by Rachna Shetty in Kolkata
January 12, 2014
Bengal 317 (Chatterjee 96, Saha 87, Easwaran 65, Anureet 4-88) and 267 (Saha 81, Shukla 76, Anureet 5-72) beat Railways 314 (Rawat 119, Ghosh 97, Dinda 6-105) and 222 (Kartik 56, Ghosh 50) by 48 runs
The end, when it came, was swift. Laxmi Shukla and Shib Paul were the stars of the day as Bengal made it to their first semi-final since 2006-07, bowling out Railways for 222, for a 48-run win. This is Bengal's third successive win in the Ranji Trophy and they will now meet Maharashtra in Indore.
Light rain and overcast skies in the morning forced a delayed start to proceedings and after two inspections, the covers finally came off around 8.55am and play began more than an hour after the scheduled start. Railways began needing 154 and as has been the trend, the first hour provided riveting action.
Off the first ball of the day, Arindam Ghosh got a thick edge to a ball from Paul, which then beat third slip to run away for four. The overnight pair of Ghosh and Nitin Bhille, however, played out the first half hour steadily, before drama returned in the form of Ashok Dinda.
He trapped Bhille lbw with his first ball. In strode a familiar opponent - Mahesh Rawat, who had struck six successive fours off Dinda in the first innings. This time, however, things were a little toned down. On his second ball, Rawat shuffled across the stumps and survived a close appeal off Dinda, and then got off the mark the next ball with a straight drive for four.
Rawat was troubled a bit by Dinda's short bowling and a few close lbw appeals, but Ghosh looked comfortable and it seemed the pair were settling down for their first-innings encore. Inspiration for Bengal, however, came in the form of their captain, Shukla, who has been a talismanic leader for them this season. In his second over of the innings, Shukla had Rawat playing on to his stumps and it was enough to revive the team and the thin Sunday crowd at Eden.
Three overs later, came another bit of inspiration - Paul, one of Bengal's senior bowlers, bowled an outswinger that Ghosh nicked to Saha. His war dance-like celebrations were justified. In three overs, Bengal had managed to dismiss two of Railways' best batsmen, who had nearly 1400 runs between them this season.
Before he fell, however, Ghosh had played an innings of equanimity, opting to grind it out, instead of using unnecessary flourishes. When he did play his strokes, however, except for that edge in the morning, they were well-timed and well-placed. His 50 off 107 balls had eight fours.
What Railways needed then was some calm batting, but perhaps the inexperience of their side showed through. Jonathan Rongsen struck two successive fours through the leg side off Shukla soon after lunch, but two deliveries later guided the ball straight to midwicket.
Bengal dropped four catches soon after lunch - within ten overs - but the advantage was still firmly in their corner. Karn Sharma then hastened matters by handing a simple catch to substitute fielder Arnab Nandi at gully, prompting the bowler Paul to break into his version of the Gangnam Style.
Things, however, got a little tense as the ninth-wicket pair of Anureet Singh and Krishnakant Upadhyay played stubbornly. Anureet hit a few fours, but Bengal came back with the wicket of Upadhyay, caught at deep-ish midwicket through a soft dismissal. The next ball sealed the result for Bengal as Sourav Sarkar bowled Ranjitkumar Mali for a first-ball duck.
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