Just before lunch on Thursday at the Roshanara grounds, Delhi were reduced to 152/5, and were 115 runs behind Mumbai. Just three metro stations away, many at the Railways-Bengal tie breathed a sigh of relief.
Delhi's misery (they conceded the lead to Mumbai) was adding to Railways’ hopes in the Ranji Trophy Elite Group A. Only one from the three — Delhi, Bengal and Railways — could become the third team from the pool to enter knockouts with Mumbai through and Tamil Nadu on the verge of qualifying. Railways, at lunch, were over a hundred behind Bengal's 201 and had seven wickets in hand. Sanjay Bangar and Shreyas Khanolkar had laid the platform. However, with just under 100 to get for the lead, they lost another wicket. Sourav Ganguly, helping skipper Manoj Tiwary, stepped up the pressure.
Kanpur-lad Awasthi, a short, wiry batsman, soaked in the pressure. The sun had removed the moisture on the wicket and Awasthi had overcome the initial jitters. He started to strike the ball well and once in the groove, was immaculate with his drives and even pulled strongly. He racked up 73 runs in just 137 balls, quick by the Karnail Singh stadium pitch standards, and when he was dismissed, Railways were just 17 away from Bengal's total. His partner for the fifth wicket, Mahesh Rawat, too joined in and was cheeky enough to try a Dilscoop. They put on 81 runs. After Awasthi's dismissal, Rawat carried on the good work with Dhiren Salvi and carried them well beyond Bengal's total.
At stumps, Railways are ahead with four wickets in hand. Brief scores Bengal 201. Railways 250/6 (Prashant Awasthi 73, Mahesh Rawat 52)