Sourav Ganguly brought on all his years of experience but his colleagues didn't show enough stomach for a fight as Bengal conceded a slender 19-run first innings lead against Haryana in an Elite Group match of the Ranji Trophy at Bansi Lal Stadium in Rohtak on Thursday.
Bengal, who were 327 for six at Tea, lost four wickets for only 12 runs in the post-tea session to get all-out for 339 in reply to Haryana's first innings score of 358. Haryana scored 42 for one in the second essay with an overall lead of 61 runs.
Only few months shy of his 40th birthday, Ganguly, who is now one of the oldest cricketers in India's domestic circuit, batted for more than four and a half hours to score 135 (his 33rd ton in first-class) but got little support from the other end.
He was the ninth batsman to get out when he tried to clear leggie Yuzvendra Chahal only to hole out to Abhimanyu Khode at mid-on. It was sweet revenge for Chahal as Ganguly had lifted him for a straight six over long on.
Starting the day at 113 for two, veteran opener Arindam Das (74) hit a boundary before he was castled by seamer Ashish Hooda. Young Writam Porel (16) nicked one from India colts seamer Harshal Patel to wicket-keeper Nitin Saini.
Wriddhiman Saha joined Ganguly for a 119-run fifth wicket partnership in which the former India captain was the dominant partner. He found the gaps with ease as Wriddhiman played the second fiddle but never looked comfortable in the middle.
Although he has sealed the second wicketkeeper's berth for the Australia tour, Wriddhiman's batting at first-class level leaves a lot to be desired. His footwork is totally circumspect whenever the ball swings a bit more and that precisely has been the reason he hasn't singlehandedly won a match for Bengal. He scored a painstaking 33 off 128 balls.
It was the military medium pace of Jitender Billa that was his undoing as he nicked one to Saini behind the stumps.
One person who would like to forget the match in a hurry is Laxmi Ratan Shukla whose irresponsible shot at a crucial juncture ended Bengal's hopes.
Shukla (28 off 34 balls) played in his customary aggressive manner when he needed to show a bit of discretion in shot making.
Rival captain Amit Mishra (4/58) bowled a googly and Shukla tried an ugly hook to only see his stumps rattled.
With three out of the four lower order batsmen not capable enough to hang around for a reasonable time, Shukla's poor shot became the turning point as Ganguly perished trying to go for big hits.
The last pair of Ranadeb Bose (5) and Ashok Dinda (1) didn't survive long as there was a mix-up when they tried to take a single after a misfield by the second slip fielder.
Haryana: 358 & 42/1
Bengal: 339 (Sourav Ganguly 135, Arindam Das 74, Amit Mishra 4/58, Yuzvendra Chahal 2/29).