Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Heartbreak for Bengal as Vinay guides Pondicherry home

Seasoned campaigner R. Vinay Kumar held his nerve in the last-over finish to help Pondicherry win by four wickets at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai.

Vinay Kumar showed his experience in a crunch moment to help Pondicherry complete the tricky run-chase against Bengal.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

It went till the last over, but seasoned campaigner R. Vinay Kumar held his nerves to guide Pondicherry to a four-wicket win over Bengal in a Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy fixture.

Chasing a modest 133, Pondicherry required eight runs from the last five balls, and Vinay Kumar hammered a six and a boundary at the Bandra-Kurla Complex on Sunday morning to seal the deal for his side, with two balls to spare.

With this defeat, Bengal’s hopes of reaching the knock-out stage were dashed.

While Vinay did the star turn in the end -- dishing out a six-ball 15 run knock -- it was captain Rohit Damodaran’s gritty knock of 55 that paved the way for Pondicherry’s win. Crafting his innings with five boundaries and four sixes, Damodaran ensured that his side got off to a steady start, chasing Bengal’s total.

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Even though his side lost a few quick wickets after his dismissal -- he was caught and bowled by the seasoned Arnab Nandi -- Vinay ensured that there was no change in the script.

Earlier in the day, opener Vivek Singh struck a knock of 43, before another middle-order collapse hurt Bengal. Even though it lost opener Shreevats Goswami early in the innings for just two runs, Singh stitched a 41-run stand for the second wicket with captain Abhimanyu Easwaran -- who chipped in with 28 runs -- but things changed after their dismissal.

With Suresh Kumar claiming four wickets, Bengal batsmen failed to show resilience. From being at 55-1, Bengal was suddenly reeling at 100-5. But it managed to go past 130-run mark, riding on Arnab Nandy’s late strike of unbeaten 21. But in the end, that mattered very little for Bengal as it failed to make it to the next stage.

Despite a promising start to the tournament, inconsistent performances hurt Bengal in yet another major tournament. Even though it has to play Assam in its last league match on Monday, it would just be a formality for Easwaran’s men.

Brief scores: Bengal 132-7 in 20 overs (Vivek Singh 43, Abhimanyu Easwaran 28; Suresh Kumar 4-17) lost to Pondicherry 135-6 in 19.4 overs (Rohit Damodaran 55, R Vinay Kumar not out 15; Shahbaz Ahmed 2-16, Sayan Ghosh 2-34)