Bengal: Exploiting a spin-friendly track, Saurashish Lahiri wreaked havoc with a career-best seven-wicket haul as Bengal sealed a spot in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals after a gap of six years, courtesy their narrow four-run win over formidable Tamil Nadu, here on Wednesday.
Needing 185 to win, Tamil Nadu, starting the day at 102 for one, were shot out for 180 as Bengal got six points from the match to take their tally to 24 from eight games.
With Baroda on the verge of losing their match against Saurashtra, having conceded first innings lead, Bengal have ensured their passage to the last-eight stage.
The victory comes as a major boost as it came on a pitch that was virtually kept under-prepared by the host association in order to ensure a smooth passage into knock-out.
In the end, the move by Tamil Nadu coach WV Raman backfired badly as veteran Lahiri ripped through the middle-order today.
"We didn't have Manoj Tiwary (injured), Wriddhiman Saha and Mohammed Shami (on national duty) yet we have beaten two domestic heavyweights like UP and Tamil Nadu in two matches. I tell youngsters like Writtick (Chatterjee), Abhimanyu (Easwaran), Gitimoy (Basu) that more than runs, what we needed is big heart. They showed that they have a big heart," Bengal skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla told PTI from Chennai.
Veteran off-spinner Lahiri with match-figures of 10/95 was the wrecker-in chief as he removed Dinesh Karthik (62), S Badrinath (21), Baba Indrajith (2) to set alarm bells ringing TN camp.
"It's not my best performance as I consider my five-for against Karnataka at Mysore on a flat deck some seven seasons back as my best effort. Here I was getting help from the track. But yes, this is the most special win of my 15-year domestic career," an ecstatic Lahiri said.
"Winning against a Tamil Nadu side with players like DK (Dinesh Karthik) and Badri is a big achievement. In fact the turning point was when I trapped Badri leg before. This is a season where I have re-discovered myself. It has been my best season for Bengal as an all-rounder," said Lahiri, who has 242 wickets and close to 2300 runs in first-class cricket.
He also got a desperate Karthik, who was playing well until then to go for an aerial shot which was taken by Ashoke Dinda at mid-on, placed a bit deeper.
Baba Indrajith (2) got a leading edge off Lahiri and Abhimanyu Easwaran took the catch at silly-point.
Skipper L Balaji's decision to promote himself didn't work out as he was out for 1 being adjudged plumb in-front.
Vijay Shankar (0) then tried to cut against turn as Gitimoy Basu took a good catch to give Lahiri his fifth victim.
Baba Aparajith (33, 4x4, 1x6) fought at the other end. Aparajith was finally taken by Easwaran at silly point off Arnab Nandi as TN slumped to 156 for seven.
Lahiri got his sixth when he had R Prasanna (5) caught by Gitimoy and got his seventh when Rahil Shah was caught by Writtick Chatterjee.
It was Malolan Rangarajan (11) and R Aushik Srinivas (10) who added 22 runs for the final wicket before Writtick trapped Rangarajan to script one of the famous victories for Bengal.
Brief Scores: Bengal 130 and 139.
Tamil Nadu 85 & (target 185) 180 in 81.5 overs (Dinesh Karthik 62, Saurashis Lahiri 7/62). Bengal won by 4 runs.
Points: Bengal 6; Tamil Nadu 0.