Bengal escape from relegation by a whisker

Published: Monday, January 3, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Kolkata:All-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla struck a brilliant face-saving 81 to enable Bengal escape relegation by virtue of a first innings lead against Madhya Pradesh, on the final day of the crucial four-day Elite Division Group A Ranji Trophy cricket match here today.

Taking the cue from Sourav Ganguly, whose 121 put the hosts in a fighting position yesterday, Shukla emerged the saviour for his side, stretching the Bengal innings to 397 in reply of the visitors' 392.

Riding on the first innings lead, Bengal bagged two vital points to cull six points from seven outings as Madhya Pradesh remained at the bottom of the table with four points and thus relegate to the Plate division.

The early session, however, had raised apprehensions as Bengal, who resumed at overnight score of 294/6, lost the valuable wicket of Devang Gandhi (77; 299m, 184b, 12x4) in the third over of the day.

The middle order batsman, who made a comeback after injury-led lay off, was bowled by Sunil Dholpure before adding any run to his overnight score.

While Shukla stood firm at one end, tailenders Utpal Chatterjee and Ranadeb Bose got out cheaply as Bengal lost the ninth wicket at 379, still 13 runs behind the visitors total.

Shukla kept his cool and finally hit Jitendra Likhar for a three to reach 393 and save relegation, much to the relief of the players and officials of the home side.

In the inconsequential second innings, the tourists scored 111 for the loss of two wickets.

Brief score: Madhya Pradesh 392 and 111/2. Bengal 1st innings 397 (S Ganguly 121, L R Shukla 81).

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