It got too close for comfort for Delhi and Bengal. The hosts required just 15 runs to take the all-important first-innings lead and Bengal one more wicket to thwart them.
It was under such intense pressure that Anustup Majumdar literally rose to the challenge and plucked a magnificent catch out of thin air in the slips to halt creeping Delhi just 14 runs short of the target (473).
Given the quality of the catch and the circumstances it came in, it should find mention alongside Arindam Das’s superb hundred on the first day and the manful toil by medium-pacers Ranadeb Bose and Ashok Dinda as reasons for Bengal bagging three points in their Ranji Trophy opener. “I think it’s the best catch ever taken off my bowling,” said Ranadeb Bose.
Prior to that clincher, one witnessed a gruelling test of grit and doggedness between Bengal medium-pacers and Delhi’s overnight batsmen Rajat Bhatia and Sumit Narwal. The Bengal medium-pacers, especially Dinda, came hard on them but Bhatia and Narwal stood firm. Gradually, they kept chipping away at Bengal’s lead. They came within 60 runs of the target when Bose trapped Narwal (60) leg-before to break the partnership that had put on 119 runs for the seventh wicket.
Even after losing Narwal, Delhi still had a chance with Bhatia brilliantly anchoring the chase. But soon after lunch, Dinda finally broke through Bhatai’s almost impregnable defence to put the game back in the balance. It looked all but over for Delhi when Bose removed Chetanya Nanda in the next over, with Delhi still 37 runs short.
The last pair of Pradeep Sangwan and Parwinder Awana, however, hung on, causing a flutter in the Bengal camp. But just when it seemed they would cross the finish line, Majumdar came up with that brilliant catch to dash their hopes.
For Delhi, the failure to win or at least take the first innings lead will be tough to digest. They are in a tough group with heavyweights like Mumbai and Tamil Nadu.
In that light, they must have been hoping for victory against a relatively weak side like Bengal. Skipper Mithun Manhas, however, presented a brave face. “We were a better side on the paper, but Bengal played better than us. So, we shouldn’t be worried about playing against Mumbai and Tamil Nadu. The side that plays better will win,” he said.