Railways in control against Bengal

New Delhi: Gritty half centuries by Prashant Awasthi and Mahesh Rawat put Railways in command as they scored 249 for six by stumps on day two in reply to Bengal`s modest first innings score of 201 in their final group league encounter of the Ranji Trophy at the Karnail Singh Stadium, here today.

It was the 81-run fifth wicket partnership between Awasthi and Rawat that put Railways in driver`s seat.

Awasthi scored a gutsy 73 but, more importantly, batted for close to three and half hours hitting seven boundaries in the process. Former India A and Rajasthan Royals keeper Rawat scored 52 off 102 deliveries with the help of five boundaries.

Railways will now look to go for the kill with a couple of days left if they can manage a sizeable lead by the firstsession tomorrow.

With Bengal spinners, especially left-armer Iresh Saxena, failing to make any sort of impact, it will be tough for Manoj Tiwary and company to make a comeback. Worse, opener Arindam Das has badly hurt his left elbow while fielding and is unlikely to open when Bengal come out to bat in the second innings.

Even Sourav Ganguly who took active participation during the numerous bowling changes and field placements, ran out of ideas as Saxena and company failed to hit right areas. The pitch certainly eased out and that helped Railways.

If Railways batsmen were discrete in shot selection, the Bengal bowlers helped them with a below par effort save Laxmi Ratan Shukla (two wickets) who was able to get a fair bit of movement.

Bengal started off well when Ranadeb Bose got Faiz Fazal (7) to edge one to skipper Manoj Tiwary in the slip cordon. However Shreyas Khanolkar (26, 3x4) and Sanjay Bangar (29, 5x4, 1x6) added 47 runs in quick time through a flurry of boundaries.

The normally sedate Bangar even hooked Ashok Dinda for a six.

Bose, who is not enjoying a good season, bowled lot of loose deliveries in the first hour. After Tiwary`s consultation with Ganguly, Shukla was introduced into the attack. The move paid off as Khanolkar played onto his stumps.

Dinda who was made to change ends after starting from the pavilion end, dismissed Bangar who got a shooter and couldn`t bring his bat down. Karan Sharma (13) was then cleaned up by Shukla.

At 103 for four, it looked like Bengal would press home the advantage but the frail-looking Awasthi showed a lot of resilience. He completely nullified Saxena`s turn by using his feet.

Awasthi found an able ally in Rawat who was positive from the start. They punished the poor deliveries but were equal to the task whenever the ball kept low.

Saxena and offie Sourashis Lahiri who haven`t done much with the ball, again disappointed.

With no leggie in the side, it was Anushtup Majumdar who was introduced to bowl his occasional leg breaks. And all he bowled were a few long hops that eased off the pressure.

Saxena finally got rid of Awasthi when he was adjudged leg before with his team needing only 18 runs to take the first-innings lead, and then picked up the wicket of Rawat.

Brief score:

Bengal 1st innings 201 all out; Railways 1st innings 249 for six (Prashant Awasthi 73, Mahesh Rawat 52; Laxmiratan Shukla 2/23).


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