Bangar and Rawat secure draw for Railways
Uttar Pradesh 346 (P Kumar 98, Raina 66, Kartik 3-60, Karan 3-73, Singh 3-86) and 150 for 6 dec (Srivastava 62, Parida 2-7) drew with Railways 200 (Goud 78*, Chawla 5-33, RP Singh 3-81) and 215 for 8 (Rawat 80, Bangar 70*, B Kumar 5-35)
A determined Sanjay Bangar and Mahesh Rawat, playing with viral fever, took Railways to a tense draw, after Uttar Pradesh had reduced them to 33 for 6, then 77 for 7. UP declared 5.5 overs into the final day, and 33.4 overs and seven wickets later were only formalities short of an incredible win. But Bangar and Rawat frustrated them for close to two-and-a-half hours, before Bangar and Anureet Singh batted out 13.2 overs to keep the visitors at bay.
Although UP had batted slowly in their second innings, adding 150 runs in 55.3 overs, their declaration early on the final day (setting Railways 297 on a slow, friendly pitch) made any result possible. UP's opening bowlers, though, were not as friendly. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, given the new ball ahead of Praveen Kumar, struck in his second over, trapping Milind Tamhane lbw. A procession was to follow.
Karan Sharma edged a swinging delivery through to wicketkeeper Amir Khan, standing up to the stumps, in Bhuvneshwar's next over, before Harshad Rawle was caught at the crease in his fifth, and Sanjib Sanyal followed Karan's path in the next over. With Bhuvneshwar on fire, and four wickets down by the 12th over, Railways' two most reliable batsmen met: Bangar and Yere Goud. The latter couldn't repeat his first-innings heroics, and edged a delivery from RP Singh angled across him. Bhuwneshwar soon got his five-for by getting an edge from Raja Ali, and tea looked far away for Railways, never mind stumps.
Up until lunch, all of UP's 23 overs were bowled by RP and Bhuvneshwar. A change came soon after lunch with the introduction of Praveen. Murali Kartik though came out with different intentions. He tried to spread the field out with a few boundaries, but when he top-edged Piyush Chawla, he had tried one shot too many.
What made UP's task look easier at that time was that Rawat had been down with fever for the previous two days. Tamhane had kept wicket in his absence in the field. When he walked out at 77 for 7, having not recovered yet, there was the best part of two sessions to bat out, and his father looked concerned watching from the sidelines.
The keeper, Rawat, had been laid low with viral fever for two days, and at 77 for 7, he would have been forgiven for staying in his sickbed. But he followed the Kartik ideology and, with Bangar rock-solid at the other end, cashed in on every scoring opportunity. The runs started coming fast, as the ball lost its shine and the sting was drawn from the pitch. Their fifty-run stand came in 92 balls, a marked improvement in the scoring-rate, and by tea they had added 75.
But, in the final session, Suresh Raina pulled off a blinder at short cover to dismiss Rawat with a century in sight, and it was game on again. Out walked the 20-year-old Anureet, in his first season, to face the music. Bangar trusted the youngster to keep Chawla out, with up to five men around the bat, and concentrated on the threat posed by RP, who bowled superbly and for close to four overs in succession, there was not a single delivery left alone.
The last throw of the dice for UP came with the new ball, six overs before stumps. Anureet was courageous in seeing those overs off. He had to face the last over of the day, from RP. Two thick edges and a square-drive got him three boundaries from the first four deliveries; the other hit Anureet in the rib for a painful blow. The fifth one was an accurate bouncer that from which he swayed out of line. Assured that Railways couldn't lose now, Anureet clenched his fist, and then went back to defending the last ball.
Bangar played through the six hours and 39 minutes of the innings for 70 runs, and made sure his team walked away with one point from the game, moving up to ten points from four matches. More importantly, UP got three as opposed to five (now 14 points from five matches). The two teams could be in direct competition by the end of the league matches.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo