Bengal batsmen face uphill task

Calcutta: Optimists would certainly hope that 2013 begins on a positive note for Bengal.

But considering their position in their final Ranji Trophy Group C tie against Railways, on Monday, at the Jadavpur University Salt Lake Campus ground, it only suggests that the start to the New Year may not be a happy one for Bengal.

At the end of the third day, the hosts are already a wicket down with just 13 runs on the board, in pursuit of 372 after Railways declared at 314 for nine in their second innings.

Das (4) and Sudip Chatterjee, who's yet to get off the mark, were at the crease at stumps after Rohan Banerjee gloved one to wicketkeeper Mahesh Rawat, trying to pull pacer Ranjit Mali over square leg.

Besides, both Das and Chatterjee have looked quite shaky during their stay in the middle so far, which doesn't inspire hopes when they go into the final day with an arduous task on hand.

Earlier, Railways got off to a fantastic start as Shivakant Shukla (39) smashed Sourav Sarkar for three boundaries in the day's very first over that yielded 17 runs. Openers Shukla and Amit Paunikar (54) took full toll of some erratic Bengal bowling before Veer Pratap Singh broke the stand, having dislodged Shukla's off-stump.

The opening partnership of 74 had laid a solid platform for Railways as Paunikar and Nitin Bhille then continued scoring at a healthy rate.

However, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala (three for 42) gave Bengal some hope to restrict Railways when he first picked up Bhille before getting captain Sanjay Bangar stumped in quick succession.

In the meantime, Shib Shankar Paul (two for 48) trapped Paunikar leg before as the visitors went to lunch at 150 for four, losing three wickets in a space of just 20 runs.

Bengal's strikes continued in the post-lunch session as well, with Sandipan Das removing Prashant Awasthi in his very first over and Paul getting his 200th first-class wicket by sending back Murali Kartik.

Bengal had every opportunity of keeping their rivals' lead under 300 with the back-to-back departures of Karan Sharma and Anupreet Kathuria that reduced Railways to 216 for eight. But Mahesh Rawat (75 not out) and Krishnakant Upadhyay (55) put on a superb 98-run stand for the ninth wicket, which was as good as taking the game away from Bengal.

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