New Delhi: An all-round show by Laxmi Ratan Shukla helped Bengal clinch their maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy after beating Mumbai by six wickets in the final at the Feroz Shah Kotla here on Monday.
Shukla's 4 for 38 played a major role in restricting Mumbai to an under-par 248, and his flawless unbeaten 106 off 90 deliveries helped knock off the runs with 23 balls to spare. Anustup Majumdar (50 off 45 balls) too played his hand by sharing an unbeaten fifth-wicket partnership of 107 with Shukla.
The duo got together when Bengal lost the wicket of the in-form Wriddhiman Saha (11 off 15), their fourth wicket, at the score of 145. But the two batsmen not only played with grit, they also kept the team abreast with the required rate.
Except opener Subhomoy Das and middle-order batsman Saha, who came into this match after hitting six consecutive half-centuries, skipper Sourav Ganguly and Shreevats Goswami contributed well for Bengal. Ganguly started his innings with a copy book cover drive off Ajit Agarkar and played some delightful strokes during his knock of 38 off 53 deliveries.
He was well supported by Goswami as they shared a 65-run partnership for the second wicket. Though the run out of Goswami and the dismissal of Saha gave some tense moments to the Bengal dressing room, the assured knocks from Shukla and Majumdar ensured that their team finished fourth time lucky.
Wasim Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane once again gave Mumbai a rollicking start, sharing 83 for the opening wicket after opting to bat first. Jaffer followed his 92-run knock in the semi-finals against Delhi at the same venue with another 61 off 48 balls. He became Shukla's first victim when he was bowled through the gates. Sensing a comeback, Ganguly continued with Shukla who brought immediate results for his captain, picking up the wickets of Rahane (24 off 38) and Anup Revandkar (15 off 29 balls) in quick succession.
Impressive bowling, added by thoughtful field placement by Ganguly, always kept the inexperienced Mumbai batsmen under pressure. Suryakumar Yadav, who replaced Shoaib Sheikh, once again showed why he is being touted as the next big thing in Mumbai cricket. He played a patient knock of 50 off 68 balls but his wicket dampened Mumbai's hopes of a competitive score. After being hit for a few runs in their early spells, Shami Ahmed and Sourav Sarkar came back strongly in the latter spells, picking up 2 for 41 and 1 for 48 in their respective nine and ten overs.
Shukla termed his century as the best innings of his career. "I am extremely happy to have contributed both with the bat and bowl. It's definitely the best all-round innings I have played so far in my career," he said after the match.
Shukla also acknowledged the role of skipper Ganguly. "He has always been very inspirational and today was no different," he said.
Bengal coach WV Raman termed Shukla's innings an outstanding effort considering the circumstances he went in to bat. "It's an outstanding effort. Given that it is a big game and for him to come and put the skids on the Mumbai innings in the morning and then followed it up with a hundred, it's a script he could not have written better," he said.