Saha defiant as Nayar shakes Bengal

Till then Wriddhiman Saha and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala had provided a stellar display of their survival instincts. It had been a day of attrition, and the two Bengal batsmen seemed to have put a heavy price on their respective wickets.

The Mumbai bowlers had come hard at them, all day long. But employing dead-ball defence and clinical judgement with regards to the whereabouts of their off-stump, the two right-handers had kept the hosts at bay for close to 30 overs.

With just eight mandatory overs to go now, it seemed increasingly inevitable that Bengal would hang onto a grim draw. Then Jhunjhunwala suddenly did what he had resisted doing for 72 deliveries-which had fetched him just nine runs-expressing his natural aggressive intent.

He also picked the wrong bowler to do it against, and the wrong ball. Abhishek Nayar had been Mumbai's most penetrative bowler on Tuesday. And on this occasion Nayar managed to sneak an in-swinger past Jhunjhunwala's bat, trapping him lbw. The lanky Bengal right-hander's walk back to the dressing-room was as pain-staking as his stay at the wicket. His one moment of weakness had opened the door, even if only slightly, for Mumbai in their quest for an outright win.

Three balls later, the hosts had barged in further, as Nayar went through the defences of veteran Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who looked back disdainfully at his shattered stumps.

Almost out of nowhere, the Mumbai spirits had been lifted with the Bengal score now reading 190/7. Bengal and Saha now had seven nerve-wracking overs to survive against Nayar & Co with their tails up. At the other end stood fast bowler Veer Pratap Singh.

Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma's strategy was clear. Spread the field to Saha for the first five deliveries of the over and expose Veer Pratap and consequently the rest of the tail to his bowlers.

... contd.

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