Madhya Pradesh found itself buried under a mountain of runs, courtesy of Pradipta Pramanik’s (60 batting, 101b, 3x4, 5x6) blistering rearguard and Anustup Majumdar’s (80, 219b, 7x4) resolute knock, as Bengal extended its lead to a mammoth 547 on the penultimate day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal at the Holkar Cricket Stadium here on Saturday.
It was already a case of too little too late for Madhya Pradesh when Saransh Jain (six for 103) dented the lower-order and gave the sprinkling of home fans something to cheer about.
But Pramanik, who had trudged to eight off 51, laid into Saransh with two back-to-back sixes before hitting the off-spinner out of the attack and condemning the defending champion to another day spent fielding.
Crowd-favourite Avesh Khan, geed up by chants of “ Humara neta kaisa ho, Avesh bhaiya jaisa ho (Our leader should be like Avesh bhaiya)” was brought into the attack in a bid to end MP’s ordeal.
But Pramanik pulled and cut him for a six and a four off successive balls to notch up his 89-ball fifty as Bengal’s 56-run unbeaten 10th-wicket partnership stretched the total to 279 for nine at Stumps.
After conceding a big first-innings lead on the third day, Madhya Pradesh’s best shot at forcing a result was finding breakthroughs in the first session. It got only one with Sudip Gharami’s leg-before off a delivery from Saransh that kept its line.
Overnight batter Majumdar kept Madhya Pradesh at bay with an innings crafted with patience and elegance.
On a day which saw 71 of the 90 overs being bowled by spinners, Majumdar kept his feet busy at the crease, stepping out to the pitch of the ball and playing with the turn. He duly drove with grace when the pacers over-pitched.
Manoj Tiwary struggled to get going against the spinners, save for an authoritative six down the ground off Saransh. The off-spinner had the last laugh, however, when the Bengal skipper attempted a similar shot but found Kumar Kartikeya diving to his right and latching on to a catch at mid-off.
Bengal lost two wickets in quick time to poor shot selection when Abishek Porel got an outside edge to the slips trying to heave Saransh over mid-wicket.
Madhya Pradesh’s dilemma was two-fold. It had to contain runs but also needed close-in fielders in catching positions. Majumdar and Shahbaz Ahmed capitalised on the host’s quandary, squeezing runs through the gaps while finding the odd boundary in a 48-run partnership.
But both fell on either side of Tea, leg-before by Kartikeya (three for 63), with Majumdar visibly disappointed with the umpire’s decision, which didn’t account for the inside edge he claimed he had got.
When Akash Deep and Mukesh Kumar became Saransh’s fifth and sixth victims, respectively, fans were scrambling to calculate the à la ‘Bazball’ run rate at which Madhya Pradesh would need to score to overhaul a target in the region of 500. Pramanik ensured they left their estimations to him as Madhya Pradesh went on a leather hunt.
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