A disciplined seam attack and fighting knocks from Abishek Porel (51, 102b, 8x4) and Manoj Tiwary (42, 129b, 5x4) helped Bengal establish a stranglehold over Madhya Pradesh on the second day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal here at the Holkar Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
The host stares at a 382-run deficit after losing openers Yash Dubey and Himanshu Mantri, who looked well-set during their 27-run vigil.
Akash Deep then got a full delivery to straighten against the angle and induced an outside edge from Dubey to the wicketkeeper before Mantri got a leading edge to mid-off in Ishan Porel’s first over to leave MP with Saransh Jain and nightwatchman Anubhav Agarwal, at the crease.
Earlier, Tiwary and Abishek ensured Bengal didn’t lose two batters in quick succession for the third time in the match with an obdurate 78-run stand after Gaurav Yadav raised Madhya Pradesh’s hopes of inflicting a collapse by making Shahbaz Ahmed nick behind while driving down the wrong line.
The right-arm pacer also challenged Tiwary’s judgement by moving the ball into him. The Bengal skipper left the ball dangerously and survived close leg-before appeals in a circumspect first hour. He stood outside the crease to smother Anubhav’s swing but was pegged back as the wicketkeeper came up to the stumps.
It took a textbook backfoot punch off Gaurav to the cover boundary – that drew resounding applause from the Bengal dugout - to lift Tiwary’s spirits.
He would have been comforted by Abishek’s precocious talent at the other end.
The lanky left-hander leaned into the drives and timed them to perfection, while also rocking back to swivel-pull and counter Avesh Khan’s tame short-ball ploy.
Madhya Pradesh’s wrecker-in-chief this season paled in front of Gaurav and Anubhav, who operated at fuller lengths and tighter lines around off-stump.
School children had trooped in to cheer for the home team and expectantly chanted Avesh’s name through his three short spells in the first session but the India international couldn’t repay the faith as Bengal took Lunch with Abishek and Tiwary firmly in control.
Madhya Pradesh hit back after the break as Bengal lost its last five wickets for 37 runs.
Kumar Kartikeya (three for 95) wheeled away 16 consecutive dot balls before getting one to turn sharply away and take Tiwary’s outside edge on the way to first slip. Kartikeya’s celebrations were surprisingly subdued for a moment that marked the first taste of success for a spinner in the 124th over of the innings.
With the tail exposed, Abishek went on the offensive, stepping out and hammering Kartikeya for a four at long-off to reach 49. But his intentions were curtailed by a deplorable mix-up when non-striker Pradipta Pramanik outran him to the same end.
Akash and Pramanik, dropped on 8 by Shubham Sharma off Saransh Jain, fell in a bid to add quick runs to what seemed a sizeable score then but appears colossal now.