Starved of runs right through the season, Bengal on Tuesday found two unbeaten centuries from the bats of Wriddhiman Saha and Sourav Ganguly that were similar in the way they were constructed but different in their import.
Delhi bowlers stuck to a plan and reduced Bengal to 43 for four on the first morning of their Ranji Trophy Elite Division Group B match before coming up against Saha and Ganguly. At stumps, Bengal had reached 265 for four from 77 overs.
Delhi bowlers could not be faulted for their effort or enthusiasm. Ishant Sharma bowled 17 overs in four spells, making the batsmen play most of the time and still giving away only 31 runs.
Pradeep Sangwan allowed the batsmen to leave him more often, but gave a particularly torrid time to Manoj Tiwary in the morning. Ishant and Sangwan scalped an opener each. First-change Parwinder Awana used his out-swingers to good effect against a nervous Bengal top-order and castled No. 3 Dibyendu Chakraborty before squaring up Tiwary and taking his off-stump.
Young debutant left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra went for quite a few and was twice deposited over the sightscreen by Ganguly. But he also had Ganguly dropped on 54 by Ankur Julka at first slip.
On a wicket devoid of pace, Ganguly and Saha were particularly cautious against the medium-pacers and targeted the 16-year-old Mishra.
They kept pace with each other for most of their innings and reached their hundreds, both against the occasional leg-spin of Aditya Jain, at the fag end of the day.
Saha’s effort- his third first-class century in three seasons — against Ishant & Co. was a small step in rebuilding his credentials as a future India prospect. That the selectors are keeping an eye on him can be guessed from how frequently he makes it to fringe players’ squads — be it for the Emerging Players’ tournament in Australia, Challenger Series or Board President’s XI’s match against visiting Sri Lanka. But with only one 50 in four Ranji Trophy matches and a failure to make the No. 3 slot his own, Saha was not exactly paying back the faith.
This century, scored at No. 6, will enable him to hold his head high for a while and let Bengal look to the future with hope. Ganguly’s century on the other hand was something to be enjoyed for the moment, with little importance as far Bengal cricket’s future is concerned. The former India batsman will be happy to know that he can still bat nearly a day and grind out a century against a first-class attack. It may also be a small, but important, step in ensuring Bengal get something from this match and are not demoted. But that is where the century’s significance ends.