Services 304 (Tiwari 71, Swain 56, Desai 52, Lahiri 3-69, Dinda 3-97) drew with Bengal 431 (Das 165, Lahiri 108, Koteswar Rao 4-123) and 126 for 3 (Subhomoy Das 54, Arindam Das 50)
It took exactly 19.5 overs for Bengal to wrap up the Services first innings for 304 and ensure three points by virtue of 127-run first innings lead from their fifth round group B encounter played at the Airforce ground in Palam today.
Saurasish Lahiri was the most successful bowler for Bengal with 3 for 69, while Ashoke Dinda took 3 for 97. They both should be credited for slogging it out on a 22-yard track which is probably one of the flattest this season.
Bengal scored 126 for 3 in their second innings as stumps was called. Laxmi Ratan Shukla and his boys now have 11 points from five matches and are still in the mix for a top three slot, but they would certainly need six points to stay there.
Starting the day at 261 for 6 in pursuit of Bengal's first innings score of 431, Services didn't even have an outside chance of making a match of it once Soumya Swain (56) was dismissed without any addition to his overnight score. The left-hander padded an arm ball from left-arm spinner Iresh Saxena and was adjudged leg before. Swain faced 179 balls and hit six boundaries.
Irfan Khan was then run-out for a duck as he raced for what was a non-existent single. Services were reduced to 267 for 8, still needing 15 runs to avoid a follow-on. After a couple of days of hard toil, Bengal's team suddenly sniffed a chance to enforce the follow-on, and that led to an intriguing 30-minute period which saw an injured Suraj Yadav (42*) battling it out to ensure that Services got a point.
The only interesting part of the last day's play was Services' reaching the magic figure of 282, while Bengal's spinners, Lahiri and Saxena, tried hard to take the last two wickets. In fact, they came close to dismissing Yadav when he lifted Saxena towards long-on, but Lahiri, who was stationed there, lost the ball in the sunshine, with the ball landing just a couple of feet to his left.
Lahiri made amends when he bowled Kanojia with a doosra, with the last man being run-out . With no chance of an outright result, it was a good opportunity for Arindam Das (50) to add to his first innings score of 165. Subhomoy Das (54) also got some runs under his belt as he faced 120 balls, hitting five fours and a six. The duo added 97 runs for the second wicket, and got some vital batting practice in the process.
The most disappointing aspect of Bengal's second innings was the approach employed by Anustup Majumdar (12*) and Sandipan Das (5*), who batted during the last ten overs of the match. With no possibility of losing, the duo didn't even try a single positive shot against a part-time spinner like Anshul Gupta, as the last 45 minutes became rather dull.
Bengal next meet group leaders Railways at the Jamia Milia Islamia ground, which has quite a lively track. It will be a test of character for Bengal's batsmen as they face the trio of Krishnakant Upadhyay (13 wickets), Anureet Singh (18 wickets) and Ranjitkumar Mali (17 wickets) who have taken 48 wickets amongst themselves. With no Manoj Tiwary, Mohammed Shami and Wriddhiman Saha, it will be a Herculean task for Bengal to beat Railways.