Bengal win battle for first-innings points
Bengal 473 (Das 156, Goswami 68, Tiwary 69, Lahiri 68*) and 92 for 3 drew with Delhi 459 (Kohli 173, Bhatia 65, Narwal 60, Bose 4-137, Dinda 4-132)
A drawn Ranji Trophy match is usually an exercise in tedium, especially if a television screen close by is showing Virender Sehwag carving up slices of Motera as though it was pizza. Hundreds of kilometers away from Ahmedabad, at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi and Bengal were engaged in a bitter tussle for the better part of a day. While the contest wasn't gripping, it was between equals. The game was eventually and predictably drawn and it was the unfashionable Bengal team that left Delhi with bruised ego, limb and three points from their Ranji Trophy season opener.
Delhi fell 14 runs short of the solace of first-innings points, bowled out for 459 in reply to Bengal's 473. It was the pursuit which made the cricket watchable. Ranadeb Bose and Ashok Dinda were like determined denists, trying to extract pace and bounce off a wicket as though it were a stubborn tooth. When the wicketkeeper let a few byes go, when fielders over-ran the ball, when singles were conceded, and even when catches were dropped, they refused to flag.
Bose had two dropped off his bowling, both equally significant in the moment. Virat Kohli went on to score 93 more after being dropped on 74 on Wednesday. Overnight batsman Sumit Narwal had turned into the attacker in a dangerous century partnership with Rajat Bhatia for the seventh wicket, and was dropped on 47, by Sreevats Goswami at gully. Delhi then, were only 83 behind.
Bose and Dinda didn't give up, though, running in and trying to hurry the batsmen. Dinda hit Bhatia and No. 11 Parwinder Awana with bouncers and gave no concessions after causing damage. He bowled Bhatia, who tried to guide to third man, just before lunch. Delhi were less than 50 behind the Bengal total at the break but Narwal's departure just after, led to a brain fade, particularly after Nanda's wicket.
Pradeep Sangwan took singles and even went for his shots but Awana was struggling, his arm immobile because of Dinda's bouncer. An hour after lunch, he cracked and tried to drive Bose extravagantly. The thin edge drew first slip Anushtup Majumdar off his feet into the air, moving left and backwards, tumbling to grab a one-handed stunner. Awana walked, Bengal were joyous around Bose and the electrified fielder. Former Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya walked out of his commentary box laughing at one of the moments that make even dreary first-class games memorable. "All of this tussle, for three points," he said.
Delhi dropped points and Bengal spent the rest of the afternoon pottering around to reach 92 for 3. The home side will grumble about the wicket because it didn't assist their quick bowlers with generous sprinklings of grass but Bose, who took 3 for 29 in an unbroken second spell of 11.1 overs, put it into perspective.
"You have to be disciplined, you have to be patient and expect that no matter what, something is going to happen. Bowlers in the subcontinent can't complain about wickets any more. You have to expect it."
Bose said what kept him going was on his T-shirt: no slogans from sponsors but Jim Morrison & the Doors. "I'm a fast bowler who thinks like a spinner and I love bowling long spells of seven-eight overs. As long as I'm fit and not hurting, I love bowling. I can bowl 12-13 overs in a row."
Bengal now play Mumbai at home from November 10 to 13. Delhi travel to Chennai for their second-round match against Tamil Nadu. Coach Manoj Prabhakar has asked the selectors to beef up the team's spin department, because legspinner Chetanya Nanda has a knee injury. Mithun Manhas, the captain, said the game had produced a "lot of disappointment" and a reworking of the combination was bound to happen. When they return home, they will decide on whether the "unresponsive" Kotla pitch will be a part of the remodeling.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at Cricinfo