Shahbaz Ahmed scalped two batsmen in successive balls as Bengal grabbed four wickets in the final session to put Delhi on the backfoot in their Ranji Trophy group A clash, on Tuesday. Resuming the second day on 286 for five, Bengal endured a terrible first session in which Anustup Majumdar was run out for 99 and that triggered the collapse. Bengal innings folded for 318 after losing five wickets inside 12 overs.
The hosts though fought back by reducing Delhi to 192 for six at close on day two, taking four wickets for 58 runs in the final session. Delhi are still trailing Bengal by 126 runs. Aided by two brilliant catches, left-arm spinner Shahbaz dismissed Kshitiz Sharma (nine) and Simarjeet Singh (0) off successive balls at close. First it was Majumdar who took a low catch at the first slip to dismiss Sharma, and then then Kazi Junaid Saifi caught Singh brilliantly in his second attempt at the forward short-leg to put Shahbaz in line for a second hat-trick.
The rookie Bengal all-rounder had taken a hattrick in their innings and 303-run win over Hyderabad in their last round match at Kalyani. "At the moment we look better. There's 14 overs left for the new ball and the conditions will be fresh in the morning. We need to bowl well tomorrow," Bengal coach-cum-mentor Arun Lal said. With rain forecast for the remaining two days, it remains to be seen whether the match will be completed. "There's possibility of an outright win, but our main fight at the moment is to ensure three points. Once we get there (get a lead), then you are not so desperate," Lal added.
The day started on a negative note for Bengal as Majumdar, having done all the hardwork to rebuild the team's innings from 72/3, fell for 99. Overnight 94, the 35-year-old Majumdar, eyeing his first century in three years, hit an elegant cover drive boundary off Simarjeet to get to 99. Singh fed him with away deliveries and all hell broke loose when the Delhi pacer bowled one to his pads, as an impatient Majumdar nudged it to midwicket and ran for a single.
But Hiten Dalal came running in, collected the ball with ease and made a diving throw, straight at the stumps to bring an end to Majumdar's sparkling innings. It triggered the collapse as his partner Shahbaz, who was 39 overnight, soon threw his wicket away, mistiming Simarjeet to fine leg where Dalal took a regulation catch. In the last match against Hyderabad, Shahbaz had run himself out for 49.
Simarjeet then ran through the lower order to become the most successful bowler for Delhi with 4/77, while left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra returned with figures of 3/78. Bengal seamer Nilkantha Das, who made his first class debut at 31, cleaned up Delhi openers Kunal Chandela (nine) and Dalal (40) with yorkers to have them 87/2. But skipper Dhruv Shorey played beautifully with an array strokes, while in-form Nitesh Rana, who plays for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, found himself at home to lead the recovery.
Rana had scored an unbeaten 105 to lead Delhi's incredible 347-run chase in the final day. Delhi looked rock solid on 147/2 but Mukesh Kumar bowled a sharp in-swinging delivery to dismiss left-hander Rana caught-behind. Mukesh went on to take the prized scalp of Shorey in addition of just four runs with a late outswinger to lead Bengal's fightback in the final session. "I was timing the ball whole day. I was hitting fours all day with similar shots but it swung in late and that was it," the Delhi skipper said about his dismissal. "They bowled really well in the last session and tested our patience. But we still have chance. One good partnership and we are back in the game."
Bengal 1st innings: 318 all out in 98.4 overs (Anustup Majumdar 99, Shreevats Goswami 59, Shahbaz Ahmed 46, Koushik Ghosh 46; Simarjeet Singh 4/77, Vikas Mishra 3/78).
Delhi 1st innings: 192 for six in 65.3 overs (Dhruv Shorey 65, Hiten Dalal 40; S Ahmed 2/11, N Das 2/36)