There has been countless fightbacks in the history of the Ranji Trophy championship and Bengal’s comeback against Mumbai at the Vidarbha Cricket Association’s Civil Lines venue must rank as exemplary. At the end of second day's play, Bengal was 198 for three and lead by 68 runs.
In the vanguard of repelling the group topper’s determined endeavour to take control of the match was the Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary (85 batting, 204m, 123b, 11x4s, 1x6) and left-hander Sudip Chatterjee (67 batting, 269 mts, 177b, 7x4s). Both figure at the top of their team’s batting honours list nearing an aggregate of 500 runs each and fittingly they were in the thick of action to stall Mumbai’s progress. Chatterjee and Tiwary have given their team a chance to take the important Group 'A' league match to a fourth innings result, should events go their way in the first session on Thursday.
Bengal began its second innings with a hefty 130 runs behind on the first innings and were 57 for three when Tushar Deshpande from square leg saw a single stump and hit it to break a partnership given shape by debutant left-hander Abhishek Raman and Chatterjee. The dramatic piece of fielding happened half an hour and six minutes after lunch and Mumbai – still ahead by 73 runs – was able to bowl with its tails up. But much to its chagrin though, it spent 204 minutes without making further inroads.
With more than a dozen medium pacers in action in the first two days, both teams had to do its extra bit to cover for the short overs bowled by regulation time and on the second day, the onus fell upon Mumbai to perform the highly exhausting work in the field. First the tea time was extended by half an hour and later, the post-tea session by half an hour when poor light stopped play at 5p.m.
Tiwary and Chatterjee, cheered ball-by-ball by their team-mates from the Billimoria Pavilion, carried out a small feat of raising 141 runs in contrasting styles. The left-hander was in the middle after Sayan Shekhar Mandal, also a left-hander, was adjudged caught at the wicket in the third ball of the fifth over. Chatterjee was typically stoical, ready to bide time and play with his head down, but Tiwary did not waste opportunities to score. After accounting for the openers, Kulkarni over-pitched and Tiwary drove him down the ground, whipped with a flick of his wrists to midwicket and hooked a short ball to the square leg fence.
Batsmen had generally floundered on the pitch that had made either team’s seamers a harsh menace, but after nine hours of play — up to the lunch break — the surface, though allowed the ball to hasten through, gave scope for stroke-play and Tiwary excelled with an exhibition of well-timed straight drives and hits through the gaps. Mumbai did well to keep the scoring rate in check, but Bengal under rising pressure after the fall of the third wicket, managed to sustain it, scoring at 3.24 an over. The happiest man in the Bengal ranks, after Chatterjee and Tiwary’s splendid unbeaten partnership has to be medium pacer, Ashoke Dinda. Dinda's energetic five for 88 brought an end to Mumbai’s first innings to 229, ten minutes before the completion of the first hour’s action.