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Bengal quickies hog limelight

The Ranji Trophy final is delicately poised, thanks to a standout performance from the Bengal medium-pacers and Mohammad Kaif's relentless search for UP's maiden crown.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2006 02:41 IST

Those interested in cricket that's going on in this side of the Indo-Pak border are in for some intense action. The Ranji Trophy final is delicately poised, thanks to a standout performance from the Bengal medium-pacers and Mohammad Kaif's relentless search for Uttar Pradesh's maiden crown.

In a way Day 2 belonged to Bengal, who first stopped the hosts from posting a huge total by plucking out the last seven wickets for just 88 runs in conditions not favouring bowlers, particularly the quicker ones. They started well too, before the UP skipper's innovative instcincts ensured that Bengal didn't go to sleep thinking they have the edge.

Beginning the day with the new ball, the tireless Shib Sankar Paul and Ranadeb Bose bowled their hearts out in the morning session. Bose induced an edge in the fourth over again, from Rizwan Samshad, which like on Sunday popped out of the hands of Subhomoy Das at second slip. To the bowler's relief, the rebound was taken at first slip.

UP's next move was surprising, as in walked wicketkeeper Amir Khan ahead of regular batsmen Jyoti Yadav and Gyanendra Pandey. Khan barely contributed in his 30-run partnership with Suresh Raina, who like Kaif fell in the nineties as soon as Bengal started trying something new.

Raina is a compact batsman with a range of strokes and plays them with a fair amount of power and poise. But he tried to go for one shot he didn't play often in this 136-ball knock. With Paul tempting him to hook with two men waiting near the fence and one close in, Raina played into the trap to be caught at deep square-leg. UP were 333 for four before this and triple nelson saw the fall of three wickets in three overs.

Batting at No. 8, Pandey ran the risk of running out of partners but UP's second highest scorer this season found a cool head and a neat batsman in leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. They kept alive hopes of reaching 400, but once Chawla fell in the fifth over after lunch, the veteran departed too, in pursuit of quick runs.

For Bengal, it was as good as they thought it could be. They didn't have options other than keeping the ball outside off and wait. Like on the first day, the UP batsmen erred, but for a change, the fielders didn't. Captain Deep Dasgupta led by example, diving low on either side to take two good catches.

It was an experience watching the Bengal innings. Not because how the batsmen fared, but for the way Kaif tried to make things difficult for them. His fielding placements were unusual and if not anything else, kept the batsmen guessing in conditions they would otherwise have little to worry about.

Beginning with a short cover, men at forward and backward short-leg apart from the slips, Kaif kept rotating his fielders in an unconventional ring around the bat. At times, there were catchers at short mid-on and mid-off and there was also a time when there were four men around the bat without a single one in slips.

With no swing in the afternoon air and the bowlers lacking incisiveness, Kaif's ploy meant that there was some element of doubt in the batsman's mind. They had to be careful playing shots because there was this fear of getting caught in parts of the field where they seldom see fielders.

Arindam Das led the Bengal chase with a characteristically dogged effort, which fetched him his fifth half-century of the season, and nightwatchman Shivsagar Singh survived 50 balls in fading light as play ended an hour behind schedule. But Subhomoy threw away another good start by playing across the line and Avishek Jhunjhunwala paid for offering no shot to a wrong one from Chawla.

This India under-19 player showed good control and will surely be UP's best bet in this battle of patience and perseverance.

Scoreboard

UP (1st innings): Pravin Kumar c Das b Lahiri 48, Shivakant Shukla c Gavaskar b Singh 71, Mohammed Kaif b Singh 92, Suresh Raina c Singh b Paul 90, Rizwan Shamshad c A Das b Bose 18, Amir Khan c Dasgupta b Bose 3, Jyoti P Yadav lbw b Paul 0, Gyanendra Pandey c Dasgupta b Paul 26, Piyush Chawla c Das b Lahiri 22, Shalabh Srivastava not out 3, Ashish Zaidi c Jhunjhunwala b Bose 1. Extras (b-4, lb-6, w-1, nb-2) 13. Total (in 124.3 overs) 387.

Fall of wkts: 1-72, 2-195, 3-258, 4-303, 5-333, 6-333, 7-333, 8-370, 9-382.

Bowling: Paul 42-5-125-3, Bose 28.3-5-86-3, Shukla 2-0-8-0, Lahiri 26-5-76-2; Shibsagar 23-4-59-2, Jhunjhunwala 1-0-13-0, Tiwary 1-0-5-0, Gavaskar 1-0-5-0.

Bengal (1st innings): Arindam Das not out 59, SG Das b Srivastava 34, A Jhunjhunwala lbw b Piyush Chawla 22, S Singh not out 12.

Extras (lb-1, w-6, nb-4) 11

Total (2 wickets in 43.5 ovs) 138

Fall of wkts: 1-68, 2-102.

Bowling: Zaidi 10-3-21-0, Kumar 10-1-44-0, Srivastava 14-3-43-1, Piyush Chawla 9.5-1-29-1.