Just eight days after knocking out defending champion Gujarat by riding on a first-innings lead that followed an unprecedented batting marathon lasting 231 overs, Bengal’s dream came crashing down.


On a sensational third day’s play of their Ranji Trophy semifinal clash here, Delhi pacers Navdeep Saini and Kulwant Khejrolia took four wickets each to halt Bengal’s second innings for a humiliating 86 in the 25th over. The first-innings lead of 112 runs, gained earlier in the day, proved sufficient for Delhi to win by an innings and 26 runs.


For the seven-time winner, this will be its first final after regaining the title in the 2007-08 season. In the title-clash, Delhi will face either Karnataka or Vidarbha at Indore from December 29.

On a day when 17 wickets fell and the match was decided with more than two days to spare, Saini’s “dream spell” and Khejrolia’s strikes, pushed into the background Mohammed Shami’s tireless performance of 15.4-3-39-5 that restricted Delhi’s lead.

Soon after resuming at the overnight score of 271 for three, in response to Bengal’s first innings tally of 286, Delhi lost left-handers Nitish Rana and Rishabh Pant in successive overs. The second new ball did the trick even as Delhi trailed Bengal's first-innings tally by five runs. .

Manan Sharma’s counter-attack and Himmat Singh’s responsible 60 played their parts in stretching Delhi’s lead past the 100-run mark. Though Delhi’s last four wickets fell in the space of just 14 runs in the second session, Bengal’s spineless response ended all debates.

“I learnt from Shami bhai 's spell this morning,” acknowledged the soft-spoken Saini, who bowled 12 overs on the trot for figures of four for 35 to hasten Bengal’s end.

“I saw the areas chosen by Shami Bhai to bowl this morning and how well he chose to bowl the short-pitched deliveries. I also decided to attack the stumps more, mix the short-pitched deliveries with the ones that kept the batsmen guessing. This was a dream spell for me and I am so happy that it played its part in team’s entry into the final,” said Saini who has clearly caught the eye of the National selectors this season.

After Vikas Tokas provided the breakthrough by trapping Abhishek Raman leg-before and Khejroliya got ‘twice-lucky’ A. Easwaran caught at mid-wicket, Saini was rewarded for his splendid effort.

Generating pace in the range of 140-145 kmph, Saini uprooted in-form Sudip Chatterjee’s off-stump with the one that stayed a bit low.
Later, he found the top of the off-stump to end skipper Manoj Tiwary’s agony. He also bowled B. Amit and Aamir Gani in an inspired spell that had extra pace, precise length and a nagging line.

Earlier, Writtick Chatterjee sacrificed his wicket for Tiwary after the batsmen found themselves at the same end. This run-out left Bengal tottering at 39 for four and truly shattered the team’s willingness to fight for another day.