Manoj Tiwary (136, 185b, 19x4, 2x6) iced Bengal’s march to the Ranji Trophy semifinals with a classy hundred against Jharkhand on the fifth and final day of the first quarterfinal at the Just Cricket Academy Ground in Bengaluru on Friday.
While a 475-run first innings lead on the fourth day had virtually sealed its spot in the last-four stage - Bengal added another 318 for seven declared in its second essay and shook hands with Jharkhand on a draw towards the end of the second session.
Bengal had decided against enforcing the follow-on on day four after Jharkhand folded for 298 in reply to its 773 for seven declared, probably to allow its batters time in the middle ahead of its impending semifinal clash against Madhya Pradesh.
Tiwary took off with a drive through the covers for four on the first ball of the day, reiterating Bengal’s dominance over the match after Shahbaz Nadeem (five for 59) had rattled its top order on Thursday. While Nadeem struck early with his arm-ball castling Anustup Majumdar (38, 74b, 4x4), Abishek Porel (34, 61b, 6x4) scored briskly as Bengal amassed 123 runs in 33 overs in the first session.
While Nadeem completed his five-wicket haul by forcing Porel to chip one to the cover fielder after the break, Tiwary continued to shift gears. He drove off the front-foot through covers to reach 98 before completing a 152-ball hundred – his 28th in First-Class cricket and first since an unbeaten 303 against Hyderabad in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy more than two years ago.
Tiwary struck the next 36 runs in 33 balls – stepping out and flicking a six over mid-wicket and employing the reverse-sweep to fetch four behind point – while Shahbaz Ahmed (46, 51b, 4x4, 2x6) played a breezy cameo and took a toll on off-spinner Utkarsh Singh, who went for 66 runs in 10 overs.
Eventually, a run-out ended Tiwary’s masterclass as the 36-year-old's dive at the striker’s end – which wasn’t enough to save him – left him gingerly stretching his hamstring. Akash Deep, coming off an 18-ball fifty in the first innings, miscued a slog-sweep off his first ball before finding two boundaries behind the wicketkeeper.
Shahbaz, playing off the backfoot, was trapped in front by Anukul Roy before the captains conceded to the inevitable. To his relief, Jharkhand pacer Sushant Mishra – who geed up his teammates from the boundary by reminding them that seven minutes remained until play could officially be called off – had his prayers answered.
If only fellow-pacers Ashish Kumar and Rahul Shukla had been more accurate and disciplined in that first session of the first day, Jharkhand could have had a different tale to tell.
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