Akash Deep (five for 42) dismantled Madhya Pradesh before Sudip Gharami and Anustup Majumdar once again swung into damage control as Bengal took a 327-run lead with eight wickets remaining in the second innings on the third day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal at the Holkar Stadium here on Friday.
Gharami and Majumdar found themselves in a familiar situation when openers Karan Lal and Abhimanyu Easwaran were dismissed in the span of less than an over for the second time in the match. Lal and Abhimanyu, bowled by Saransh Jain and Kumar Kartikeya, respectively, were beating by the turn while playing off the backfoot.
But Gharami and Majumdar pressed forward and stepped out to smother the spin and ensure the chatter around the stumps petered out with Bengal taking Stumps at 59 for two.
The morning session had put a seal of permanence on Madhya Pradesh’s fate. Mukesh Kumar induced an aimless poke from night-watcher Anubhav Agarwal, who nicked behind, in the third over of the day. Four deliveries later, Akash sent Rajat Patidar’s off-stump cartwheeling with a nip-backer that kept low.
Patidar’s dismissal for a duck sent captain Aditya Shrivastava into a shell. With Mukesh imparting reverse-swing on the ball towards the end of the first hour, Shrivastava survived three questionable leg-before decisions. But he wasn’t fourth time lucky as Shahbaz Ahmed trapped him in front with an arm ball.
Venkatesh Iyer, returning from injury and playing his first match of the Ranji Trophy campaign, stepped out to launch the second ball he faced for a six over covers. But his belligerence was cut short by Shahbaz, who got one to turn and bounce unexpectedly as Venkatesh plopped a straightforward catch to short-leg.
Saransh (65, 169b, 5x4), undeterred by the wickets falling around him, struck a 54-run stodgy stand with Shubham Sharma (44 n.o., 99b, 4x4). He rode the bounce with ease, drilled the fuller deliveries through the gaps and ensured wicketkeeper Abishek Porel regretted dropping him on 37 off Akash.
But scores were settled after Lunch when Akash angled one across to the left-hander and uprooted Saransh’s off-stump. His conventional in-swinger trapped Kartikeya in front next ball before Shubham drove the hat-trick ball with disdain to the cover boundary.
Akash claimed his third fifer and 36th wicket of the season with Avesh Khan nicking off as Bengal’s pace trio once again tormented an opposition.
After being skittled out for 170 and conceding a 268-run first-innings lead, the Madhya Pradesh fielders had a skip in their step when Bengal didn’t enforce the follow-on; the come-from-behind win against Andhra in the quarterfinal still kindling their hopes of a revival. However, Gharami and Majumdar’s alliance would have relegated them to a distant memory.
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