Man of the moment: Shahbaz Ahmed flashes the victory sign as his teammates carry him after his exploits confirmed victory.  

Bengal surges into quarterfinals

Shahbaz Ahmed’s 11-wicket match-haul the cornerstone of win over Punjab


Bengal rode on left-arm orthodox Shahbaz Ahmed’s match haul of 11 for 101 to surge to a 48-run win against Punjab and qualify for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals here on Friday.

The visitors began the day in front by 186 with a wicket in hand. It could add only three more to its overnight score of 199 as Krishan Alang removed Writtick Chatterjee to end with figures of six for 53. Bengal was bowled out for 202, setting Punjab a target of 190.

Bengal’s new-ball bowlers produced the breakthroughs in the morning session. Akash Deep was terrific, bowling at pace and constantly attacking on the off-stump line.

Early breakthrough

He got his reward in the very first over when opener Abhijeet Garg poked at a length ball, away outside off and edged it to the keeper. He then rattled Sharad Lumba’s stumps with one that kept low, before the spinners sparked a mini-collapse and reduced Punjab to 37-5.

Then Anmol Malhotra and debutant Ramandeep Singh made the pitch seem utterly docile, reviving Punjab’s flagging chase.

The Punjab dug-out cheered every well-run two, well-placed singles, even bad shots that deserved no love at all. But the joy was short-lived.

Sharp return catch

Shahbaz ended the 63-run sixth wicket stand between Malhotra and Singh when he trapped the former in front immediately after lunch. He then sent Abhishek Gupta back with a sharp return catch for his 10th wicket of the match. Ramandeep was stranded on 69, as Punjab eventually folded for 141.

Bengal last reached the Ranji Trophy final in the 2006-07 season, where it lost to Mumbai. That was its second consecutive Ranji final, having lost to Uttar Pradesh the previous season. It has been a long and arduous wait since, but Friday afternoon’s win will once again revive its hopes.

The scores: Bengal — 1st innings: 138.

Punjab — 1st innings: 151.

Bengal — 2nd innings: Koushik Ghosh lbw b Alang 12, Abhimanyu Easwaran b Kaul 4, Abhishek Raman b Alang 1, Arnab Nandi c Sabharwal b Kaul 51, Manoj Tiwary lbw b Alang 65, Shreevats Goswami b Alang 24, Anustup Majumdar b Alang 26, Shahbaz Ahmed b Choudhary 5, Writtick Chatterjee c Gupta b Alang 6, Akash Deep lbw b Choudhary 0, Ramesh Prasad (not out) 6, Extras (lb-2): 2; Total (in 69.3 overs): 202.

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-18, 3-21, 4-128, 5-146, 6-183, 7-190, 8-190, 9-190.

Punjab bowling: Kaul 11-1-37-2, Baltej 5-1-8-0, Alang 23.3-7-53-6, Choudhary 26-3-93-2, Mandeep 4-0-10-0.

Punjab — 2nd innings: Rohan Marwaha b Nandi 2, Abhijeet Garg c Goswami b Akash Deep 0, Sharad Lumba b Akash Deep 3, Mandeep Singh lbw b Shahbaz 17, Krishan Alang lbw b Prasad 11, Ramandeep Singh (not out) 69, Anmol Malhotra lbw b Shahbaz 17, Abhishek Gupta c & b Shahbaz 6, Vinay Choudhary lbw b Shahbaz 4, Siddarth Kaul run out 1, Baltej Singh run out 0; Extras (nb-2, b-4, lb-5): 11; Total (in 47.3 overs): 141.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-5, 3-5, 4-31, 5-37, 6-100, 7-121, 8-127, 9-141.

Bengal bowling: Akash Deep 6-2-17-2, Prasad 14-0-46-1, Shahbaz 18.3-3-44-4, Nandi 7-2-22-1, Writtick 2-0-3-0.

Bengal won by 48 runs.