Kolkata: Bengal recorded a facile nine-run victory over Odisha to emerge as East Zone league toppers and enter the main round of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 tournament, at the Eden Gardens here on Saturady.
In a must-win match to make the main round, Odisha were set a modest 122 run target after Bengal elected to bat but their batters put up a freak display and lost wickets at regular intervals to be restricted to 112 for nine. With an all-win record from four matches, Bengal (16 points) qualified to the main round as toppers along with group runners-up Jharkhand (8).
Saurashis Lahiri, who was named captain for Bengal's campaign in the main round, led the side in absence of Laxmi Ratan Shukla but they had little trouble with Odisha putting up a meek show. Rookie left-handed opener Vivek Singh (38 from 27 balls; 3x4, 2x6) was Bengal's top scorer, while Arnab Nandi was instrumental in the win with an allround effort.
Bengal were in danger of being bowled out losing two wickets in the 17th over to be 98/7 but Nandi held his nerve and remained unbeaten on 29 (25 balls; 3x4) to push the total to 121/7. Required to score at run-a-ball, Odisha batsmen never showed any appetite after their inform opener Paresh Patel (17) was bowled by Sanjib Sanyal in the fourth over.
Bengal will be missing their top stars skipper Shukla, Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, Ashok Dinda and Veer Pratap Singh in the main round of the tournament since they will be leaving for their respective franchises' preparatory camps for the upcoming IPL-7.
Jharkhand became the second team after Bengal to make the main round of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament on net run-rate following their mammoth eight- wicket win over Assam in the East Zone league at the Jadavpur University second campus ground in Saltlake on Saturday.
Ishan Kishan struck a delightful 35-ball 48 (6x4), while skipper Saurabh Tiwary was back among runs with a 21-ball 36 not out with two fours and two sixes as Jharkhand cruised to the 128-run target with 22 balls to spare.