Delhi 398 (Gambhir 127, Chandela 113, Himmat 60, Shami 6-122) beat Bengal 286 (Sudip 83, Saini 3-55) and 86 (Saini 4-35, Khejroliya 4-40) by an innings and 26 runs
On a day when fast bowlers on both the sides produced game-altering spells, it was Bengal’s freefall with the bat that had them plummet to a defeat by an innings and 26 runs in Pune. After Mohammed Shami’s 6 for 122 limited Delhi’s lead to 112 runs, Delhi’s bowlers shot the opposition out for 86 within 25 overs to book their team’s spot in the final. Bengal’s batting line-up was spliced open by Navdeep Saini and Kulwant Khejroliya, who relied as much on their red-hot pace as the batsmen’s muddled thinking as they helped themselves to four wickets each. All of Saini’s dismissals – Sudip Chatterjee, captain Manoj Tiwary, Aamir Gani and B Amit – were bowled. Saini knocked over Gani and Amit off successive deliveries that registered speeds of 140 kph and 144 kph respectively. He finished with seven wickets in the match.
While Saini and Khejroliya spearheaded Delhi’s raid, it was Vikas Tokas who set it up with Abhishek Raman’s dismissal in the third over. Bowling from wide of the crease, Tokas slanted one in and Raman, beaten for pace, was pinged on his back leg and adjudged lbw. “Beaten for pace” soon became a recurring theme, as Bengal slipped from 32 for 1 to 44 for 5. Much as Saini and Khejroliya were threatening, Bengal didn’t do themselves any favours. Abhimanyu Easwaran was let off twice – on 6 and 13 – when first Saini put down a simple caught and bowled chance and then Kunal Chandela dropped him at midwicket. But Easwaran returned the gift by pulling one straight to Chandela off the next delivery, and froze in disbelief.
Saini then broke through Sudip’s defence to clean him up. While a delivery that kept low could be held up as a mitigating factor in his case, there could possibly be no reasonable explanation for Writtick Chatterjee’s run-out. Having completed an easy single, Tiwary set off for the second after the throw at the non-striker’s end headed towards the fielder backing up at square leg. Even as Writtick yelled out a loud “no”, Tiwary kept going and Writtick eventually sacrificed his wicket. A little over two overs later, Anustup Majumdar nicked one down the leg side, which was followed by Tiwary being knocked over by a scorching Saini delivery that straightened after pitching on the fuller side of length to clatter into the top of off.
Seven overs later, Bengal’s innings had come to an end, with Shami unbeaten on 13, probably wondering why he was faced with the situation he found himself in. He had good reason to feel aggrieved considering his part in keeping Bengal in the match with blistering spells on either side of lunch. He bowled 39 overs in the innings – the most by a Delhi bowler. In the morning, Shami put the second new ball to good use almost right away, pegging Nitish Rana in front of the stumps. Rana was a touch unlucky though, as the ball had pitched outside leg stump. Ashok Dinda matched Shami’s act by having Delhi captain Rishabh Pant lbw in the next over. With Delhi having slipped to 281 for 5, it looked like they would fail to capitalise on the advances made on Monday.
However, Himmat Singh (60 off 115 balls) ensured that the lower order wouldn’t fold easily. He first put on 47 with Manan Sharma, who made 34 off 33 balls, before raising a 56-run stand with Tokas, who gritted out 10 off 51 balls. The defining feature of their batting was the spunk they displayed in the face of some scorching short-pitched bowling from Dinda and Shami. The batsmen ducked and weaved awkwardly and even got hit, but refused to give in. In the face of such bowling, you can bat for long enough to be bruised in the quest for runs or wilt cheaply as a unit – Delhi and Bengal represented both ends of the spectrum.