Saurashtra gained a sizeable advantage over Bengal in the Ranji final, thanks to their pace bowling troika of Chetan Sakariya, Jaydev Unadkat and Chirag Jani who made the ball talk to skittle out the opposition for 174 runs in their first innings on Thursday.
Playing on a seam-friendly pitch at the Eden Gardens on the first day of the final, Saurashtra pace-battery led by Unadkat made excellent use of the conditions to share eight wickets amongst them.
The Saurashtra skipper and Chetan Sakariya scalped three wickets each while Chirag got the batter of two Bengal batsmen. In reply, Saurashtra ended the day at 81/2 with Harvik Desai 38* and nightwatchman Chetan Sakariya 2* at the crease.
Bengal’s batting collapse started early when Saurashtra captain Unadkat, who wwas released from India’s Test team to compete in the final, struck in the first over with an inswinger that dismissed Abhimanyu Easwaran with a bat-pad catch to short leg.
Sumanta Gupta was dismissed in the next over to Sakariya off a rising length delivery that popped to the slip cordon.
Bengal were 2 for 3 in the first 10 balls of the encounter when No. 3 Sudip Kumar Gharami left a brilliant Sakariya delivery only to have it rattle his stumps. Unadkat then changed his approach to around the wicket and was rewarded with Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwary’s wicket, as he edged to gully for 7.
Jani soon had Anustup Majumdar caught behind for 16, and allrounder Akash Ghatak found Sakariya’s short ball too hot to handle. Bengal and their sizable home fans were disappointed at 65 for 6.
However, allrounder Shahbaz Ahmed and wicketkeeper-batter Abishek Porel produced a comeback that commenced before noon and almost extended until tea. Their 101-run seventh-wicket stand began tentatively, but both batsmen found it easier to score as the pitch got easy to bat. After lunch, they were able to make quick progress by finding boundaries on both sides of the wicket.
Shahbaz scored 69 before edging a Dharmendrasinh Jadeja delivery and was out bat-pad to short leg. Saurashtra sent the lower order packing in less than 15 minutes after tea.
Jadeja’s second victim was Akash Deep. Porel was out for 50 to Jani, and Mukesh Kumar was bowled out by Unadkat.
The response from Saurashtra began with opener Harvik Desai (38*) taking the attacking route. He raced to 29 of 28 balls, despite his opening partner Jai Gohil being dismissed cheaply by Akash. Vishvaraj Jadeja, the No 3, too played well, scoring 25 with five boundaries before succumbing to Mukesh.
Saurashtra reached 73 for 2, thanks to the quick runs from the opening pair.
Sakariya, the pick of the Saurashtra bowlers in the morning with 3 for 33, survived nine deliveries in Desai’s company, and when bad light interrupted play, the visitors were considerably happier than their rivals, only 93 runs short of Bengal’s first-innings total. (ANI)