Pacer Ashok Dinda returned to his elements with a magnificent seven for 82, and a match haul of 10, to set up Bengal's emphatic eight-wicket win over Uttar Pradesh with more than a day to spare in their Group B Ranji Trophy league in Kolkata on Monday.
A day after Bengal skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla turned it around for Bengal with his belligerent century, Dinda, who had taken two wickets to leave UP tottering at 50 for three in their overnight score, exploited the Eden green top to the fullest enroute to his 7/82, his first five-for this season. Dinda was brilliantly supported by Sourav Sarkar (3/33) as the former India pacer bowled an unchanged spell of 12.4 overs in a brilliant display of seam bowling to skittle out the Group B leaders for 140, giving the hosts a paltry 69 to chase.
Bengal had the bonus point in sight as they promoted Abhimanyu Easwaran to open the innings with Gitimoy Basu as regular opener Arindam Das was down with a sore back. Debutant Abhimanyu looked elegant but Bengal's hope of posting a 10-wicket win was shattered when Basu got out chasing down a wide delivery. Sayan Sekhar Mondal (21 not out) and Sudip Chatterjee (11 not out) completed the formality to hand Bengal their first win of the season with a full session and a day to spare. Even as the win came in their penultimate league match, the six points revived Bengal's quarter-final hopes as they moved to 18 points to have an outside chance of making the knockout stage.
Bengal will now have to produce yet another win in Tamil Nadu in their last league match from December 30 to keep their hopes of advancing to the next stage alive. Earlier, the visitors were clearly on the back foot as they started the day on the back of Dinda's two-wicket blitz on Sunday.
With no positive intent from the UP overnight duo of Mulul Dagar and Prashant Gupta, Bengal skipper Shukla persisted with the Dinda-Sarkar attack. Sarkar did not disappoint his captain as he gave the first breakthrough of the morning, castling Dagar in the ninth over of the day to leave UP reeling at 67 for four.
Dinda made his presence felt when Chatterjee took a stunning flying catch at second slip to dismiss Gupta, the other overnight batsman with an addition of two runs to the total. On a roll, Dinda took Ekalavya Dwivedi in his next over when the wicketkeeper-batsman top edged while trying to pull but only to be caught by the bowler. Dinda scalped his fifth deceiving Parvinder Singh with a classical out swinger and in the next ball he trapped UP skipper Piyush Chawla leg before, which brought in the tailenders. The Bengal's bowling duo continued for 34th over before Shukla made the first change by bringing in veteran Shib Shankar Paul in place of Sarkar, even as Dinda continued unrelenting at the other end. Ali Murtaza (41 not out) counter attacked Bengal.
Sarkar was brought back and the seamer yet again gave the breakthrough, ending the 35-run partnership between Murtaza and Ahmed, trapping the latter on the back foot. With his newly-wedded wife cheering from the VIP box, Dinda dismissed RP Singh to cap a match haul of 10 for 157, and was adjudged the man-of-the-match. "From the beginning, we went all out for a victory and it feels happy to have contributed to the win. I just kept it simple and it worked. I am thankful to Sarkar who lent a fine support at the other end," Dinda said
Skipper Shukla, who was the man behind Bengal's turnaround with an aggressive 117 in the first innings, said his team would have to keep up the same intensity when they face Tamil Nadu at the Chepauk. "We have always been a good side. It's just we have been done in by some poor sessions this season. We will have to win once again and for that we have to be in the same tempo," Shukla said at the post match presser.
Brief Scores: Uttar Pradesh: 212 & 140 (Ali Murtaza 43 not out; Ashok Dinda 7/82, Sourav Sarkar 3/33) lost to Bengal: 284 & 70 for two by 8 wickets.