Shahbaz Ahmed, fresh after making his international debut against South Africa in the One-Day International series, produced a brilliant all-round performance to power Bengal to a 43-run win over Tamil Nadu in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (Elite Group E) at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Sunday.
The all-rounder top-scored for Bengal with an unbeaten 42 off 27 balls to help his side post 164 for six.
Later, with his left-arm spin, he scalped three important wickets (three for 13) and wrecked TN’s middle-order, from which the defending champion could never recover, making only 121 for nine in 20 overs.
Electing to bat first, Bengal lost an early wicket in the second over but skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran and Sudip Kumar Gharami gave the team a good platform with a 64-run stand for the second wicket off just 33 balls.
Washington Sundar helped TN get back into the back with two quick wickets before Ritwik Roy Chowdhury steadied the ship with a valuable 32. Later, Shahbaz gave the innings the final flourish to help his team post a commanding score.
TN’s chase never got going with the team just going around six runs per over in the first eight overs. As the batters tried to accelerate, Shahbaz proved to be handy and tough to score off.
Only B. Sai Sudharsan made a valiant 64 (48b, 4x4, 2x6) for TN, but none of the other batters, barring skipper Baba Aparajith, got into double digits.
This is TN’s second defeat in four matches so far in the league stages and the team faces an uphill task to qualify for the knockouts and needs to win its matches against Jharkhand and Chandigarh to stay alive in the tournament.
“We gave about 20 runs extra today and it made the difference in the end. While batting, the pitch started taking more spin than in the first innings but we still should have batted better. In the next two matches, we need our middle-order to fire,” said TN coach M. Venkatramana.