Ranji Trophy: Shukla, Ghosh give Railways a toehold

Set a target of 315, Railways lost three wickets at 22, but ended the day at 196 for five after riding on a 134-run fourth wicket stand between Shukla and Ghosh.

Shivakant Shukla, who batted with patience and displayed immaculate stroke selection in the given situation, concentrated hard for 297 minutes for his 83, which included 12 boundaries.   -  K. RAMESH BABU (File Picture)

Half centurions from Shivakant Shukla and Arindam Ghosh frustrated Bengal to dramatically revive Railways’ fortunes on the third day of the Ranji Trophy match here on Saturday.

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Set a target of 315, Railways lost three wickets at 22, but ended the day at 196 for five after riding on a 134-run fourth wicket stand between Shukla and Ghosh. With the experienced Mahesh Rawat and skipper Karn Sharma at the crease, Railways is not without hope. It needs another 119 runs to pull off a memorable win that looked improbable at one stage.

Bengal, too, will be hoping for the second new ball, which is only one over old, to do the trick on Sunday morning. Earlier in the day, Bengal could add only six runs to its overnight score of 208 for nine.

Railways, having lost the previous two matches by falling well short of the target, seemed headed for a similar result until Shukla and Ghosh produced a partnership instrumental in taking the match into the final day.

Coming together after medium pacer Amit Kuila sent back opener Saurabh Wakaskar and, in his next over, scalped Mrunal Devdhar and V. Cheluvaraj off successive deliveries, Shukla and Ghosh batted with a rare sense of purpose, not seen in Railways’ approach in the last five innings.

Their partnership of 134 runs spread over 245 minutes, including the post-lunch session, not only provided assurance to those in the Railway dressing room but also left Bengal exasperated.

Ashok Dinda, who took five wickets in Railways’ first innings, went wicket-less. Sayan Ghosh was rewarded for his persistence with the wickets of Shukla and Ghosh.

Shukla, who batted with patience and displayed immaculate stroke selection in the given situation, concentrated hard for 297 minutes for his 83, which included 12 boundaries. Just when he looked good to get his second century of the season, he could not resist the temptation to pull a rising delivery from Sayan and ended up offering an easy catch to Dinda at long leg.

Soon Railways suffered another big blow when Ghosh departed for 51. Cramping and needing medical help, Ghosh fell leg-before to Sayan. Both the set batsmen departed in the space of nine runs.

In the remaining 12.5 overs, Rawat and Karn added 31 runs, denying Bengal any more success.