Rajkot, Sept. 30 -- When Vikram Rathour, Rajinder Hans and Saba Karim of the newly-appointed selection panel settled down at the start of the first NKP Salve Challenger Trophy game between India 'A' and Bengal on Saturday, their biggest concern would have been the performance of the bowlers.
However, the worry lines soon turned into smiles. Ishant Sharma, who had undergone an ankle surgery earlier this year, picked up four wickets, while Pragyan Ojha scalped three to dismiss Bengal for 193, after being asked to field. Ultimately, Shikhar Dhawan decided to steamroll the Vijay Hazare champs with an unbeaten 99 to help India 'A' romp home to an eight-wicket victory with 12.4 overs to spare.
And if Ishant's performance at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium is anything to go by, the days to come hold hope for India. The effort, consistency and variation all seemed to have returned to Ishant's arsenal.
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He made good use of the short ball to dismiss Subhomoy Das (9) and Debabrata Das (1), while a slower delivery deceived Wriddhiman Saha (65), who threatened to emerge as the thorn in the flesh.
Ojha did not think twice before giving his deliveries some air. In fact, he induced Jayojit Basu (42) to play across the line and edge it to first slip, where a diving catch sealed the batsman's fate. Guess who was the fielder? Ishant, dismissing any doubts about his agility.
The wicket started the slide and reduced Bengal to 92 for six, before Saha and Arnab Nandi (43) counter-attacked to steer Bengal to some respectability.
India 'A' were dealt an early blow as Robin Uthappa (25) departed early. But Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane (63) ensured the team's ride from thereon was smooth.
Brief scores: Bengal 193 in 41.1 overs (Saha 65, Nandi 43; Ishant 4-29, Ojha 3-40) lost to India A 196/2 in 37.2 overs (Dhawan 99*, Rahane 63)
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.