New Delhi, Mar 13: All-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla hit a magnificent century to singlehandedly guide Bengal to the Vijay Hazare Trophy triumph as they comprehensively thrashed heavyweights Mumbai by six wickets in the final on Monday.
It was an outstanding effort from the 31-year-old who has never done justice to his talent but finally came good when it mattered most.
His effort helped Bengal chase down the target of 249 with 23 balls to spare, thus winning their first National One Day Championship in fourth attempt.
Shukla who got four for 38 to restrict Mumbai under 250 then showed his big-hitting prowess, remaining not out on 106 off only 90 balls. His innings included 12 boundaries and two sixes -- one off Ankit Chavan that hit the third tier of the Feroz Shah Kotla stand and the other off Kshemal Waingankar that went over the deep mid-wicket boundary.
With in-form batsman Anushtup Majumdar (50 not out), Shukla took Mumbai attack to the cleaners, adding 107 runs for the unbroken fifth wicket stand in under 14 overs. Both batsmen played some great shots -- especially Shukla who played the square cut and cover drive apart from lofting the spinners over the in-field.
The winning stroke came off Anushtup's bat as the ball raced to the boundary even as the whole Bengal squad strode onto the pitch. Credit should also be given to skipper Ganguly (38, 53 balls, 6x4) and Shreevats Goswami (42, 73 balls, 3x4) for adding 69 valuable runs after Subhamoy Das was trapped leg before by Ajit Agarkar.
Ganguly suffered from cramps but still managed to produce a signature cover-drive, a pull off Agarkar and one over extra cover off Waingankar.
Incidentally, it was also Ganguly's maiden national title as Bengal captain having made his first-class debut way back in 1990.