Ranji Trophy semifinal: Late wickets kindle Bengal's hopes of entering final

Chasing a target of 352, Karnataka lost two late wickets to finish Day 3 on 98/3. It still needs 254 runs to win with seven wickets in hand. Bengal was bowled out for 161 in the second innings.

Bengal bowler Ishan Porel reacts after dismissing Karnataka opener K.L. Rahul (not seen) on Day 3 of the Ranji Trophy semifinal at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, on Monday.   -  PTI

Two late wickets from Akash Deep and Mukesh Kumar restored Bengal's hopes of qualifying for the Ranji final despite Devdutt Padikkal's fighting fifty in Kolkata. The visiting team needs 254 more to win with seven wickets in hand.

The second ball of the first over of Karnataka's chase found the crowd at the Eden Gardens in full throttle. Ishan Porel trapped KL Rahul in front with an inswinger from over the wicket.

As it Happened

Rahul wanted to challenge the call, but couldn't since he was not offering any shot and the impact didn't matter. The dismissal brought about wild cheers with Porel — whose wicket-taking celebration resembles that of Liverpool's Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah— leading the jubilations.

Rahul's dismissal brought Padikkal, Karnataka's highest run-scorer this season, to the crease. He had batted at No. 6 in the first innings, but was promoted up the order in the second innings.

The pair of Samarth and Padikkal steadied the innings with a 51-run second-wicket partnership before Deep got Samarth out lbw with one that nipped in a touch.

Padikkal was positive, looking compact in defence but pouncing on drives through the off-side when they were available. He had Manish Pandey for company at stumps.

Rousing start

The match had been well poised, with Bengal 262 in front and six wickets in hand. But a fragile middle-order meant a wicket was never too far away and two back-to-back dismissals threatened another batting collapse.

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The Karnataka pacers bowled at a lively pace and moved the ball under favourable conditions, with Ronit More nipping out Sudip Chatterjee and Shreevats Goswami — who bagged a pair — off successive deliveries.

But what could have been a tricky chase had Bengal been bowled out cheaply, turned into a calculated attack as Shahbaz and Majumdar added 61 for the seventh wicket.

Once the first hour had been dealt with, both the batsmen were able to play shots, though Majumdar remained cautious while Ahmed was more attacking.

The lack of success for the fast bowling trio exposed not only Gowtham, the lone specialist spinner, but also the second line of attack of Karun Nair, who carried out the fifth bowler's duties.

Contentious decision

The first session wasn't short of drama though. A contentious DRS decision brought the restricted version of the technology being used in the semifinals into the spotlight. In the 33rd over, Majumdar was adjudged not-out after being ruled caught behind by the on-field umpire.

The replays showed the ball very close to the outside edge, but with no conclusive evidence of the ball touching the bat — especially without Ultra Edge — the decision was overturned much to the fielders' chagrin.

In the meantime, Majumdar copped several blows to the body, hooked some, evaded some, and somehow managed to survive.

He farmed the strike well to protect the lower order, was picky with his stroke-play and placement. He was eventually stumped off Gowtham for a well-compiled 41, giving his bowlers a challenging total to defend.

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