On a keenly-contested opening day, Bengal nosed ahead against a scratchy Saurashtra side in the Ranji Trophy final in Rajkot with the hosts in a spot of bother when the stumps were drawn.
Star India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, suffering from tonsillitis in the lead-up to the match, walked off in the final session, reportedly due to a fever. Having walked in to bat at No 6, Pujara felt dizziness late in the day as his side wanted to avoid making him bat unless absolutely necessary according to ESPNCricinfo. The India player had a fever due to throat infection but will bat on the second day, said skipper Jaydev Unadkat, reported PTI.
Earlier, Avi Barot and Vishvaraj Jadeja struck gritty half-centuries before Bengal pacer Akash Deep struck late in the final session to leave Saurashtra at 206/5 at stumps on Monday.
Akash Deep, who was Bengal’s standout bowler with three wickets, had Chetan Sakariya caught behind, bringing an end to day’s play. The limited DRS in place for the final came in to play.
With the pacers doing the bulk of the job, only 80.5 overs could be bowled.
Pujara walking off the field after scoring five off 24 balls put the home team in a spot of bother after Barot (54 off 142) and Jadeja (54 off 92) played themselves in.
Saurashtra, playing their first final at home, opted to bat in friendly conditions.
The Bengal pace attack has delivered all season and the team relied on them to get the early breakthroughs.
Ishan Porel and Mukesh Kumar tested Harvik Desai (38) and Barot in their opening spell but the openers did well to take Saurashtra to 77/0 in 35 overs at lunch. Luck also smiled on the home team with Bengal grassing three difficult catches in the session. Desai was dropped twice while Barot got one life.
Bengal got their first wicket in the third over after lunch when Desai, surprised by the extra bounce generated by left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed, pushed it straight into the hands of the silly-point fielder to leave his team at 82/1 in the 38th over.
Though there was assistance on offer for spinners, Ahmed was content to bowl the containing line and bowled as many as 20 overs in his first spell, majority of them from over the wicket, with pacers operating from the other end.
Vishvaraj then got together with Barot and opted for an aggressive approach against Ahmed, hitting the spinner for three consecutive boundaries.
Medium pacer Akash Deep, pick of the Bengal bowlers, provided the second wicket when he removed a well-set Barot with a ball that pitched around off stump and straightened, taking a faint edge to Wriddhiman Saha.
Jadeja and centurion of the semi-final against Gujarat, Arpit Vasavada (29 not out) took Saurashtra to 155/2 in 61 overs.
Bengal pacers lifted their game in the final session with Akash Deep castling Jadeja with a sharp incoming ball soon after the batsman completed his second half century of the season.
Two overs later, Porel trapped Saurashtra’s leading run-getter Sheldon Jackson who had got going with two cover drives off Kumar’s tempting half-volleys. Hero of the semi-final against Karnataka, Kumar was guilty of offering too many freebies to the opposition.
Jackson’s fall finally brought Pujara in the middle but he walked off the field looking unwell, having consumed 24 balls.
The ball often kept low in the final session, signs that the batsmen’s job is only going to get tougher.
(With PTI inputs)
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