Bengal captain Abhimanyu Easwaran took charge of a tough run chase by scoring an unbeaten half-century as his side’s Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match against Baroda headed for an interesting finish at the Barabati Stadium on Saturday.

Baroda, beginning from 144 for five, rode on wicketkeeper-batter Mitesh Patel’s second consecutive half-century to score 255 in its second innings and set Bengal a challenging target of 349 on the penultimate day.

Bengal was at 146 for two at the draw of stumps and needed 203 runs more on the final day.

Unaffected by Bengal’s humiliating first innings total of 88, Abhimanyu (79 batting, 114b, 7x4) batted positively and guided his younger opening partner Sudip Gharami (27), who was tentative early on, to lay a sound 89-run stand despite the pressure created by the disciplined Baroda bowlers.

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Looking in good touch, Abhimanyu played each ball on merit. He drove and pulled well to get some lovely boundaries on either side and did not miss any chance to run hard and rotate the strike.

Even after the dismissal of Gharami, who was bowled by a sharp one from Atit Sheth, and Writtick Chatterjee – who was promoted up the order but could not capitalise on the opportunity – in quick succession, Abhimanyu collaborated with seasoned hand Anustup Majumdar (22 batting, 51b, 2x4) to put up an unbroken 56-run partnership for the third wicket.

Anustup played the supporting role really well.

Earlier, Baroda overcame a minor jolt of losing overnight set batter Pratyush Kumar in the first over to set a stiff target for Bengal.

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Even as the Bengal pacers continuously looked for wickets, Mitesh (57, 100b, 5x4) again showed his utility down the order. The 24-year-old associated with Dhruv Patel (34) and Sheth (20) to gather 64 and 43 for the seventh and eighth wickets respectively.

Mitesh played some attractive shots on the leg side before being caught at deep mid-wicket off Akash Deep, who bowled some energetic spells and claimed three wickets with a good economy rate, as Baroda’s second essay ended midway through the middle session.

The scores:

Baroda -- 1st innings: 181

Bengal -- 1st innings: 88

Baroda -- 2nd innings: J.K. Singh b Ishan 12, Kedar Devdhar lbw b Shahbaz 41, Pratyush Kumar c Abhishek b Mukesh 39, Shivalik Sharma (run out) 12, Krunal Pandya c Gharami b Akash 10, Abhimanyu Singh c Akash b Ishan 15, Dhruv Patel c (sub) Ritwik b Ishan 34, Mitesh Patel c Gharami b Akash 57, Atit Sheth c Tiwary b Mukesh 20, Bhargav Bhatt b Akash 0, Lukman Meriwala (not out) 2, Extras (b-10, lb-2, nb-1) 13, Total (in 85.1 overs) 255

Fall of wickets: 1-41, 2-67, 3-91, 4-107, 5-137, 6-144, 7-208, 8-251, 9-252

Bengal bowling: Mukesh 23-6-62-2, Ishan 19-3-70-3, Akash 26.1-6-69-3, Shahbaz 16-6-39-1, Writtick 1-0-3-0.

Bengal -- 2nd innings:   Sudip Gharami 27, Abhimanyu Easwaran (batting) 79, Writtick Chatterjee c Mitesh b Dhruv 0, Anustup Majumdar (batting) 22, Extras (b-8, lb-10) 18, Total (for two wickets in 41 overs) 146

Fall of wickets: 1-89, 2-90

Baroda bowling: Meriwala 14-3-34-0, Sheth 13-2-40-1, Abhimanyu 4-0-18-0, Bhargav 4-0-18-0, Dhruv 5-0-12-1, Krunal 1-0-6-0.