It was a good toss to lose for Bengal, which rode on Sudip Kumar Gharami’s maiden First Class hundred to end day one with a commanding 310 for one on the board in the first quarterfinal of the Ranji Trophy at the Just Cricket Academy Ground on Monday.
Jharkhand’s frustration was summed up by the sight of Shahbaz Nadeem throwing his hat to the ground in disgust after misfielding in the cover region in the middle of a fruitless spell towards the end of day’s play. A few overs later, Gharami stepped out to Nadeem’s spin partner Anukul Roy to move into the nineties with a four over mid-off before notching up his century.
Aged 23 and averaging just over 14 in four First Class matches before today, Gharami was undaunted by milestones. Coming in at number three, Gharami got off the mark after seven dot balls. After settling in, he launched Nadeem over long-off for six to move to 48 before playing a skilful inside out drive over covers off Roy.
Gharami and Anustup Majumdar’s footwork against spin stood out as the duo struck 178 runs for the second wicket, with Nadeem and Roy bowling in tandem for the large part of the partnership. After 42 overs of spin going wicket-less, Saurabh Tiwary took the new ball. What followed was a flurry of boundaries as Bengal piled up 46 runs in the last nine overs. Majumdar pulled Sushant Mishra for three identical boundaries in the 87th over to stamp Bengal’s authority over the game.
Earlier, openers Abhishek Raman and Abhimanyu Easwaran had laid the platform with an 88-run unbroken stand before the former retired hurt on 41. Raman drove a half-volley by Rahul Shukla to the long-off boundary before shouldering arms to four deliveries wide outside off in the first over. That opening over summed up the travails of Jharkhand’s pacers, who failed to exploit the swing on offer in the first hour by bowling wide, over-pitching or going too short.
After a few inside edges early on and three consecutive appeals for leg-before-wicket with Ashish Kumar nipping the ball in, captain Easwaran – shimmying out of his crease to negate the swing - found his stride with a four at long-on. With six fielders on the off, the pacers bowled too straight, giving the batters a free pass on leg-side.
The openers were particularly severe in the V, punishing any indiscretion in length down the ground. Easwaran also showed his range, ramping over third man for six and cutting one off the backfoot for a four after the wicketkeeper was brought up to the stumps to keep the skipper from stepping out to the pacers.
With Easwaran picking the line and length of the fast bowlers with ease, Jharkhand drew first blood against the run of play. Easwaran was trapped in front by Mishra while the former tried to play at a length ball angling in from off-stump.
However, Majumdar, coming in next, dashed any hope of Jharkhand making a recovery. An outside edge that dropped short of first slip in the penultimate over of the day was the only glimmer of hope for the bowlers in a near-flawless exhibition of batting.