Seasoned campaigners- captain Manoj Tiwary and Anustup Majumdar defied immense pressure to score fighting half-centuries and keep Bengal afloat even as Saurashtra maintained a firm grip over the Ranji Trophy final at the Eden Gardens here on Saturday.
Resuming from 317 for five, Saurashtra gathered 87 runs more in a little over two hours to aggregate 404, the maximum runs conceded by Bengal in an innings this season, in its first essay and secure a huge 230-run lead.
Responding to the challenge, Bengal scored 169 for four in its second innings and trailed by 61 runs at stumps on the third day.
Bengal had another disappointing start as opener Sumanta Gupta again got out to Chetan Sakariya before lunch in an uncannily similar fashion, captured at the second slip in the second over, to the way he had departed in the first innings.
In the less-testing second period, the visiting pacers bowled good lines to reduce Bengal to 47 for three. Abhimanyu Easwaran, who escaped a run-out attempt, was caught behind off Sakariya, and Sudip Gharami was held at first slip off Jaydev Unadkat.
However, Anustup and Tiwary refused to give up. Anustup worked the ball around to get into rhythm, while Tiwary, who took 10 balls to score his first run, slowly got set.
Even as they looked to spend time in the middle, Anustup and Tiwary dispatched the erring deliveries to the boundary.
Anustup (61, 101b, 8x4) drove, cut and flicked with confidence to get his fifty. He shared a valuable 99-run partnership with Tiwary before playing Unadkat to gully.
A determined Tiwary (57 n.o., 129b, 9x4), whose half-century was studded with fours on either side, did not lose focus though. He stayed with Shahbaz Ahmed to fight another day.
Earlier, Bengal began the day on an encouraging note with Mukesh Kumar scalping Arpit Vasavada, who, in a rare lapse, connected an away-going delivery to the ‘keeper, in the first over.
Mukesh struck again, finding the other overnight batter Chirag Jani’s outside edge and securing a four-wicket haul.
Akash Deep produced two beauties to dismiss Unadkat and Prerak Mankad (33, 50b, 6x4) to claim three wickets.
Displaying Saurashtra’s depth in batting, its last pair – Parth Bhut, who was dropped twice off Akash Deep by the butter-fingered fielders, and Dharmendra Jadeja – frustrated the host by adding 35 runs and making Bengal’s journey more challenging.
Ishan Porel took Dharmendra as his third victim to end Saurashtra’s innings.
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