No IFS, only Bhatt

When pacer Saurav Sarkar had former India star Venugopal Rao caught behind on the first ball of the final day, Bengal dreamt of a bonus point while Gujarat faced the prospect of drawing a blank. At 18/5 in their second essay, Gujarat needed 248 more runs to avoid an inning defeat. Surviving the day was too much of an ask for the lower order of a team that has been perpetually on the run for most of the last three days.

But when it seemed that the visitors will surrender meekly, Gujarat's No.8 and No.9 put a partnership that ensured that their No.11 didn't have to take field. Rujul Bhatt's unbeaten 102 and his precious 149-runs partnership with Rakesh Dhruv (83) meant Gujarat finished at 272/2 to pinch an unlikely point as Bengal settled for 3.

Others who put up a fight on the final day were nightwatchman Rush Kalaria, who batted for 112 minutes to score 23. Manprit Juneja (32) too put his head down before being deceived by a slower ball from pace spearhead Ashok Dinda.

Playing his fourth season, the 26-year-old Bhatt played the 'boy on the burning deck' to perfection. Though, his open stance isn't the kind that coaches recommend nor is his technique to deal with the short ball water-tight. But the left-hander still compensates those shortcomings with his pure grit. Besides, he also plays the ball late and never ever throws his wicket. Coming here on the heels of a 160 not out that he scored in the last match against Saurashtra, Bhatt's confidence was sky high. Walking in with his team reeling at 56/6, Bhatt finally left the field after stumps to a standing ovation.

By the time he reached his third first-class hundred, with a six over long on in the penultimate over of the day, Gujarat had managed to save the game.

... contd.

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