Ranji Trophy 2022: Kartikeya upends Bengal, MP qualifies for first final since 1998-99

Kumar Kartikeya picks five second-innings wickets as Bengal folds for 175; MP to face Mumbai in the final.

Left-arm spinner Kumar Kartikeya Singh picked up eight wickets in the match.   -  MURALI KUMAR K

Kumar Kartikeya picked up five second-innings wickets as Madhya Pradesh (MP) beat Bengal by 174 runs to reach its first Ranji Trophy final since 1998-99. MP will take on the 41-time champion, Mumbai, at the Chinnaswamy Stadium from June 22.

The celebrations after the win were low-key with MP head coach Chandrakant Pandit stating, "The boys realise the job isn't done yet. There is happiness, but the revelries can wait."

Pandit and chief selector Chetan Sharma had a 15-minute chat with Kartikeya and Rajat Patidar after the match.

Earlier, MP struck off the second ball of the morning after overnight rain delayed the start on day five until 10.45 AM. Gaurav Yadav had Anustup Majumdar, who was not out overnight on 8, caught behind with an out swinger. Majumdar attempted an expansive drive and paid the price.

AS IT HAPPENED

However, Bengal rallied for one session through its last recognized pair of Abhimanyu Easwaran (78, 157b, 7x4) and Shahbaz Ahmed. They batted well for a 38-run sixth-wicket stand as MP went flat for about one-and-a-half hours.

Both batters were different in their method against spin. Easwaran was initially the busier of the two, watching, moving, and playing the ball as late as possible. Along the way, he crossed 5000 First-Class runs. Shahbaz, meanwhile, played the odd sweep and when the ball landed outside off or leg stump, used his pads as a second line of defence.

But Easwaran's dogged resistance ended after Lunch when Kartikeya knocked over his stumps with a delivery that kept low. Thereafter, Bengal was resigned to its fate as it collapsed from 135 for six, losing heart and wilting under the guile of Kartikeya, who finished with figures of five for 67.

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Madhya Pradesh lorded it over Bengal because the latter's cricket was blighted by basic errors with the bat, ball, and catching, as well as selection.

Their pace trio of Ishan Porel, Mukesh Kumar, and Akash Deep had accounted for more than half of the wickets taken before the semis. But Bengal wanted to play a second left-arm spinner in Pradipta Pramanik, so they went with Sayan Mondal, the all-rounder, ahead of Porel to give the team batting depth.

However, Mondal could neither do the holding job with the ball nor contribute with the bat. With the benefit of hindsight, Bengal missed the services of Porel, and the lack of a quality spinner hurt. That said, it is the top-order frailty and the latest grim batting collapse that will haunt it the most.

Brief scores

Madhya Pradesh 341 (Mantri 165, Raghuwanshi 63, Mukesh 4-66) and 281 (Shrivastava 82, Shahbaz 5-79, Pramanik 4-65) beat Bengal 273 (Shahbaz 116, Tiwary 102, Kartikeya 3-61) and 175 (Easwaran 78, Kartikeya 5-67, Gaurav 3-19) by 174 runs.

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