The 26-year-old, who got married a just couple of days before, bagged six wickets to restrict Bengal to 138, continuing his superlative form. He took nine wickets in the team’s win over Andhra here, an effort that had led skipper Mandeep Singh to call him an unsung hero.
Not long back, Vinay used to play second fiddle to Harbhajan Singh. Now, Mayank Markande is the top choice. But the Amritsar lad, who has only played 17 first-class matches for Punjab since his debut in 2013, has come into his own in the last couple of matches. And, today, was another one of his performances that proved he can be one of the mainstays in the bowling department, although he did get some help from Bengal batsmen.
After opting to bat first, none of the Bengal players applied themselves, apart from Manoj Tiwary, who scored a fighting half-century. It looked like the ghost of a bad pitch got the better of them. The pitch had odd bounce but in the morning session it was completely dominated by Punjab’s medium pacer. Siddharth Kaul, who was playing with fever, bowled superbly, but failed to take any wicket. It was his fellow pacer Baltej Singh (3/16), who gave Bengal the early jolts. The lanky pacer castled Bengal skipper Abhimanu Easwaran for a duck. Easwaran was all over the place during his shot stay at the crease. Baltej kept bowling the probing line and ended the misery of Koushik Ghosh (7).
Abhishek Raman (14) threw away his wicket with a wild hoick and debutant Ramandeep Singh took a good running catch at the sweeper cover region of Krishan Alang’s bowling. Thereafter, Vinay clean bowled Arnab Nandi and left Bengal reeling at 57 for 4.
The experience duo of Manoj and wicket-keeper Srivats Goswami started to rebuild the innings. But Goswami (19) was dismissed by Chaudhary just at the stroke of lunch. Bengal were 104 for 5 in 38.1 overs at the lunch break.
Vinay continued to torment the Bengal batsmen and bagged two more wickets in the 39th over. Anustup Majumdar was caught by wicketkeeper Anmol Malhotra and Bengal’s last match hero Shahbaz was adjudged leg before the wicket. This over of Vinay, according to the own admission of Bengal coach Arun Lal, took the game away from Bengal.
“We lost three wickets in one over which really did the damage for us. We could have applied ourselves a bit better. Credit must be given to Punjab as they bowled really well and their accuracy was pinpoint,” said Lal after the day’s play.
Lal accepted the pitch is not that bad as they had presumed. He said, “It is not that bad but yes, if you see out of 13 wickets which fell today 10 were taken by spinners. So, it is also not a quality pitch either. The lead of 50-60 runs will not matter a lot, because it is Punjab who have to play in the fourth innings. I think we are still in the game.”
It looked like Manoj, who remained unbeaten on 73, was playing on a different surface even as wickets tumbled on the other end. The 34-year-old played some eye-catching shots and his inside out six over Krishan Alang was definitely the best shot of the day.
Bengal coach Arun Lal heaped praise on Tiwary and said: “This is how you bat on a turning track. He is probably the best batsman of spin bowling in this country. It was a classy knock.”
Punjab’s wrecker-in-chief, Vinay Chaudhary credited his success to former Indian left-arm spinner Maninder Singh.
“During the pre-season, I had watched videos of Maninder sir. The way he used the crease was quite phenomenal. Earlier in the season, I didn’t get much game because the team was playing with three pacers and one spinner, so I used to bowl a lot on the nets and learnt this craft of using the crease,” said Chaudhary.
It was Chaudhary’s second six-fer in a row, but for him this was the most satisfying.
“Against Andhra, there was so much help for the spin bowlers from the surface. That was a spinner friendly track but on this pitch, I took all the wickets with the help of my skills. So, for me, this five-wicket haul is the most satisfying,” he said.
In reply, the hosts are in commanding position with 93 for 3 in in 38.3 overs with their leading run scorer skipper Mandeep Singh (29 not out) on the crease. Punjab opener Rohan Marwaha (48) missed out on a well-deserved half-century as he was caught by Abhishek Kumar Raman at the forward short leg off Akash Deep’s bowling.
For Bengal, left-spinner Shahabaz (2/28) bagged two wickets and was looking the most threatening among the four spinners their skipper has used.
Bengal 1st innings: Koushik Ghosh lbw Baltej Singh 7, AR Easwaran b Baltej Singh 0, Abhishek Kumar Raman c Ramandeep Singh b Krishan Alang 14, Arnab Nandi b Vinay Choudhary 11, Manoj Tiwary not out 73, Shreevats Goswami lbw Vinay Choudhary 19, Anustup Majumdar c Anmol Malhotra b Vinay Choudhary 0, Shahbaz lbw Vinay Choudhary 0, Writtick Bijoy Chatterjee c Anmol Malhotra b Baltej Singh 2, Akash Deep c Sharad Lumba b Vinay Choudhary 0, Ramesh Prasad c Rohan Marwaha b Vinay Choudhary 0
Extras: 12 (nb 1, b 4, lb 7)
Total: 138 all out in 49 overs
FOW: 1-8 (A R Easwaran, 3.5 ov) ,2-21 (Koushik Ghosh, 9.6 ov) ,3-29 (Abhishek Kumar Raman, 14.3 ov) ,4-57 (Arnab Nandi, 22.4 ov) ,5-104 (Shreevats Goswami, 38.1 ov) ,6-104 (Anustup Majumdar, 38.4 ov) ,7-104 (Shahbaz, 38.5 ov) ,8-119 (Writtick Bijoy Chatterjee, 41.2 ov) ,9-132 (Akash Deep , 46.6 ov) ,10-138 (Ramesh Prasad, 48.6 ov)
Bowling: Siddharth Kaul 11-4-25-0, Baltej Singh 13-6-16-3, Krishan Alang 8-0-32-1, Vinay Choudhary 17-3-54-6
Punjab 1st Innings: Rohan Marwaha c Abhishek Kumar Raman b Akash Deep 48, Abhijeet Garg b Shahbaz 14, Sharad Lumba c Abhishek Kumar Raman b Shahbaz 1, Mandeep Singh not out 29
Extras: 1 (nb 1)
Total: 93 for 3 in 38.2 overs
Bowling: Akash Deep 4.2-0-13-1, Ramesh Prasad 11-1-29-0, Shahbaz 11-2-28-2, Arnab Nandi 7-2-11-0, Writtick Bijoy Chatterjee 5-0-12-0