Bengal learns valuable lessons on Tuesday

The Bengal Ranji Trophy cricket squad, eager to make an impact this season, learnt on Tuesday that consistency and the ability to make a good start count are first class cricket’s biggest requisites as it fell quite some distance short of the big first innings score that seemed possible after a splendid opening day against Delhi at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground.

Having raised visions of a 500-plus score on Monday, Bengal faltered to finish with 473. Delhi’s premier batsmen Virat Kohli (batting 51) and Shikhar Dhawan (batting 33) stroked the side to 89 for one at close, indicating that the opening session on Wednesday would be critical in the battle for the first innings lead.

Having won all sessions on Monday when it made 313 for two, Bengal conceded much ground in the opening session when a more disciplined home attack picked up four wickets in the span of 12 overs. Arindam Das’ fall to Parvinder Awana trigged a slide with Sumit Narwal claiming the scalps of Manoj Tiwary, Anustup Majumdar and Lakshmi Ratan Shukla in quick succession.

When play resumed, Bengal would have expected Das and Tiwary to build a substantial partnership but Das (156, 258 balls, 20 fours) was bowled in the fifth over the day. Tiwary’s fall not much later put paid to hopes that he would celebrate his elevation as Bengal captain with a century. He made 69 with nine fours.

Had it not been for Sourashis Lahiri’s unbeaten 68 (122 balls, 10 fours, one six) – his fourth half century in 77 first class games – and his 98-run stand for the seventh wicket with Wriddhiman Saha (36), Bengal would have finished around the 400-mark. That would have swung the scales towards the home side more definitively.

With Saha putting a price on his wicket, Lahiri adopted a more aggressive approach as the pair showcased resilience and the determination that Bengal has promised to embrace this season. It was a pity, though, that once Saha was dismissed by the deceptive Rajat Bhatia, Lahiri was a helpless spectator as the tail-enders made no contribution at all to the score.

While the Delhi bowlers did come up with an improved show, especially on the line and length fronts, it must be said that on Tuesday the Bengal batsmen’s lacked the application that they highlighted so strongly on the opening day. Their shot selection left a lot to be desired and it forced the team to finish short of the 500-run mark, not to speak of a bigger score.

Despite Lahiri’s exploits with the bat and despite seeing Chetan Sharma’s back in the fourth over, Bengal’s psyche appeared to be dominated by the thoughts that it had allowed Delhi to come back into the match. It was highlighted when Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwary’s decided to remove Lahiri from the attack when his off-spin was posing Kohli some questions.

It is clear that Tiwary and coach WV Raman will have to get the team to focus on the fact that Delhi is still 384 runs behind rather than worry that the home side’s unseparated second wicket pair looked in ominous touch. They know that the bowlers will have to produce the rabbit out of the hat on Wednesday.

My report on the second day in The Telegraph