And UP are almost there
Substitute fielder Ali Hamid Zaidi ran in a good 15 yards from the deep square-leg fence and threw himself forward to catch Laxmi Ratan Shukla's top-edged sweep, which stopped Bengal 14 short of Uttar Pradesh's first innings total.india Updated: Feb 01, 2006 23:44 IST
Substitute fielder Ali Hamid Zaidi ran in a good 15 yards from the deep square-leg fence and threw himself forward to catch Laxmi Ratan Shukla's top-edged sweep, which stopped Bengal 14 short of Uttar Pradesh's first innings total.
Having conceded a practically decisive lead, Bengal needed quick wickets when the hosts batted again. Ranadeb Bose got an early breakthrough and was about to start the celebrations again before he saw Mohammed Kaif's uppish drive pop out of cover fieldsman Avishek Jhunjhunwala's hands.
In a nutshell, these two incidents summed up the difference between the teams in this Ranji Trophy final and at stumps on Day Four, there was little scope to debate who would win the 72nd edition of the National Championship. Kaif was yet to score when he was dropped with the total reading 31. Significant runs were added to both accounts after that.
Even if the UP batsmen leave their thinking caps behind when play starts on Thursday and get bundled out in quick time - which is a hugely unlikely possibility in itself - it will be fractionally less than impossible for Bengal to rattle up the required runs in the time remaining.
And if things go the way they are expected to, the last day's play will be reduced to formalities after which the hosts will lay their hands on the coveted trophy for the first time. Meaningless action will be unfortunate, for things had been exciting during most of these four days.
The most riveting part of this match was witnessed on Wednesday morning when Bengal started their pursuit of 39 runs and UP came out in search of two wickets. The drama lasted for nearly an hour and 10.4 overs before Zaidi glued this tragic tag on Shukla's heroic effort.
Those thinking Shukla would take most of the strike were wrong as No. 10 Bose faced 68 of the 97 balls their partnership lasted. With nine men in catching positions, Bose blocked, missed, got hit on the body and rapped on the pad to spark frantic appeals, which added up to some nail-biting stuff.
When he got a decent amount of bat on successive balls from Shalabh Srivastava in the eighth over of the day for two runs on each occasion through the point region, there were whispers in the press box that Bose might start thinking of playing the ball more than leaving it.
It came true next ball, when Bose failed to keep his bat away from a short one going down the leg side to be caught behind. Bengal needed 25 more, in walked last man Shib Sankar Paul and it was clear that Shukla would cut loose.
He hoisted leg-spinner Piyush Chawla for a huge six over long-on which was the only unprotected spot on the boundary line. Kaif wasted no time in putting a man there and this left Shukla with no choice but to improvise. In Chawla's next over, he got two with a reverse sweep, played two dot balls before that fateful shot.
It was tipped to be a battle of patience, turned out to be one where holding nerves became the key and no doubt that UP showed more of these qualities. Also, for a team oozing the exuberance Kaif plays his cricket with, it was apt that an inspired piece of fielding led to the defining moment of this match.
The hosts still had to occupy the crease for some time. It was difficult for bowlers to make an impact unless the batsmen made mistakes and to the discredit of Bengal fielders, they couldn't capitalise on them.
Uttar Pradesh 1st innings: 387
Bengal 1st innings: (A Das c Amir Khan b Chawla 60, SG Das b Srivastava 34, Jhunjhunwala lbw b Chawla 22, S Singh b Chawla 23,RS Gavaskar lbw b Kumar 49, M Tiwary lbw b Kumar 43, D Dasgupta c Amir Khan b Zaidi 20, LR Shukla c sub (AH Zaidi) b Chawla 66, SS Lahiri c Shukla b Chawla 21, RR Bose c Amir Khan b Srivastava 11, SS Paul not out 0;
Extras--b 4, lb 6, w 6, nb 8-24)
Total (all out, in 126.4 ovs) 373
Fall of Wkts: 1-68, 2-102, 3-143, 4-186, 5-204, 6-252, 7-302, 8-331, 9-363, 10-373
Bowling: Zaidi 26-5-65-1, Kumar 32-5-124-2, Srivastava 33-4-91-2, Chawla 35.4-8-83-5,
Uttar Pradesh 2nd innings: (P Kumar c A Das b Bose, SK Shukla lbw b Paul 56, M Kaif batting 81, SK Raina batting 22; Extras--b 4, lb 1, nb 4-9)
Total (for 2 wkts, in 70 ovs) 183
Fall of wkts: 1-25, 2-136,
Bowling: Paul 22-3-57-1, Bose 6-2-17-1, Lahiri 24-2-73-0, Singh 16-5-25-0, Tiwary 2-0-6-0.