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Ranji Trophy: Pragyan Ojha stars in Bengal's first win of season

Kolkata: Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha spun Bengal to their maiden victory this season as his career-best match haul of 11 wickets helped the hosts outplay Vidarbha by 105 runs in the Group A Ranji Trophy cricket match, which witnessed an intense finish, here yesterday.

Chasing a stiff 297, Vidarbha almost saw the day through with a valiant 96 from Ganesh Satish (11x4, 1x6) but the new Bengal recruit trapped him LBW with a ball that stayed low en route to 4-60 in the second innings to make it 183 for nine in the last ball of 82nd over. With light fading fast and Bengal needing the last wicket, two catches were dropped to add more drama in the fag end of the fourth and final day.

But before it could go out of their hands Veer Pratap Singh (3-23), who had given the first two breakthroughs in the day, sealed the win dismissing Ravikumar Thakur to spark early Diwali celebrations in the hosts camp. Having defeated the team, which was placed second before the match, Bengal thus opened up the table to jump to top four and brighten their last-eight hopes, while Vidarbha dropped to fifth.

Bengal are now ahead of Vidarbha and behind third-placed Assam on net run-rate as all the three teams have 16 points, while Delhi (24) and reigning champions Karnataka (21) occupy top two in the standings. Man of the Match Ojha, who has had a quiet season for his new team so far, made it memorable at the Jadavpur University
second campus ground in Salt lake as he made all the difference in the bowling unit, en route to his career-best 11-118 in Ranji Trophy.

In first-class cricket, this was his third 10th wicket match haul and first in Ranji Trophy with the other two coming in Test and a county for Surrey. Earlier Veer Pratap gave the first breakthroughs dismissing Wasim Jaffer (three) and Faiz Fazal (nine) before Satish stitched 67 with Subramaniam Badrinath (31).

But before they could make it big, Ojha gave twin blows in Badrinath and Shalabh Shrivastava (1) in successive overs, while Ashok Dinda made it 85 for five at lunch castling Shrikant Wagh for a duck. It may have seemed a cakewalk for Bengal but Satish stood in between their win with his 201-ball knock spanning five hours and 25 minutes to frustrate Tiwary in the second session that belonged to Vidarbha.

The Bengal skipper bowled nine overs and took the only wicket to fall in the second session, Amol Ubarhande (eight) but it did not help the cause as Ojha hardly got any support at the other end. Satish meanwhile started to look threatening having completed his 20th first-class half century with a boundary off Ojha against whom he also struck a six.

Nothing working for Bengal, Tiwary brought in another part-timer in Pankaj Shaw, a move that clicked as the off-spinner dismissed Aditya Sarwate (24) LBW first ball to bring an end to his 56-run seventh wicket partnership with Satish. "It was the turning point of the match," man of the match Ojha said acknowledging Shaw's effort.

"But we never gave up hope. It was about being patient and bowling consistently. Somebody had to do something extra ordinary and I'm glad that my contribution helped the team." Satish looked solid in his defence and was happy to avoid the singles to avoid giving strike to the tailenders as he neared his century.

Four runs shy of the feat, Ojha bowled an unplayable delivery that stayed low and went straight to hit Satish in front of middle stump and it was all open for Bengal. To add more drama, Tiwary dropped Bandiwar at slip before the same batsman was dropped by Ojha off his own bowling to miss out on his 12th victim.

Tiwary opted to give a break to Ojha and brought on Veer Pratap who was quick to dismiss Thakur in the very first ball after the batsman took an outside edge and was caught by wicketkeeper Shreevats Goswami.

Brief Scores
Bengal 334 and 164 Vidarbha 202 and 191 all out in 91.1 overs (Ganesh Satish 96, Subramaniam Badrinath 31; Pragyan Ojha 4-60). Points: Bengal 6, Vidarbha 0.

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