The Eden Garden crowd sang songs, chants and were at their cheerful best as they sensed history in the making. Bengal were inching towards a monumental win and as it turned out, they didn’t keep the fans waiting for long on Day 4 of the Ranji Trophy encounter between Bengal and Karnataka at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
A win by 174 runs has now taken Bengal in their first-ever Ranji Trophy final since the 2006-07 season.
Karnataka were 98 for 3 on Day 3 stumps with Devdutt Padikkal and Manish Pandey still out there fighting hard for the team. Karnataka needed 254 more runs to win and if Karnataka had imagined that they would look to get close to the target and take it session by session before the start of the day’s play, any such intention was eradicated by Bengal pacer Mukesh Kumar who bowled a brilliant spell.
Mukesh picked up four wickets in five overs and consequently left the Karnataka tail just too much to do. All of this within the first hour of the day’s play and there simply had to be just one winner from there- Bengal.
However, Karnataka should be forgiven for expecting a fight from their overnight batsmen simply because they were Manish Pandey- Karnataka’s most experienced batsman and Padikkal, who was the only Karnataka batsman to have scored a fifty for them on Day 3. But Kumar was at his best when he set up Pandey quite brilliantly with a flurry of inswinging deliveries before getting the wicket-ball to just straighten a bit.
In his next over, KV Siddharth was dismissed in a similar fashion and Kumar even had a hat-trick chance after trapping Sharath Srinivas right in front of the wickets in the next ball.
When they were six wickets down, Karantaka’s last hopes revolved around Padikkal and all-rounder K Gowtham but Kumar had other ideas as he changed his angle, came around the wicket to the left-handed Padikkal and git him to edge the ball to the keeper.
The Karnataka tail did what they knew best, smash the balls and throw their bats at everything but it wasn’t going to be enough by no means. Ishan Porel dismissed Gowtham and Kumar picked up his fifth soon after in the form of Ronit More. Kumar eventually finished with career-best figures of 6-61.
It is such a shame that Karnataka who had already won both the Vijay Hazare and Mushtaq Ali trophies and were looking good to enter the finals after reducing the hosts to 67 for 6 in the first innings ended up losing the contest by such a big margin.
However, it was Ansutup Majumdar’s unbeaten 149 who not only scored a ton himself but batted intelligently with the lower down the order to take Bengal to 312, a total which neither of the team came close to getting for the remainder of the match.
Maujmadar’s effort of scoring more than 200 runs in the Test match when the entire opposition failed to get 200 even once, proved to be the difference between the two teams and earned him the Player of the Match. It was fitting that Majumdar’s knock came in a record win for Bengal and would give them huge amount of confidence to try and lift the Ranji Trophy for the first time since Sourav Ganguly’s debut season in 1989-90.