Ranji Trophy semifinal: Majumdar century rescues Bengal

Anustup Majumdar's unbeaten century came to Bengal's rescue as the host finished the first day's play at 275 for nine in the semifinal against Karnataka.

Anustup Majumdar celebrates after notching up his second century of the season.   -  PTI Photo

Anustup Majumdar's (120 no, 173b) successive hundred and second of the season, studded with 18 fours and a six, ensured honours were evenly split between Bengal and Karnataka after the first day of their Ranji Trophy semifinal at the Eden Gardens here on Saturday.

If not for Shahbaz Ahmed and Akash Deep's counterattack and a Majumdar-led riposte after the lunch break, the opening spells from Karnataka pacers would have put the match beyond Bengal's reach.

After a damaging first session, which saw it reduced to 66 for five, Bengal finished the day on 275/9.

Counterattack

With K.L. Rahul replacing J. Suchith in the XI, the lack of a regular fifth bowler visibly hurt Karnataka. Ahmed collected two successive boundaries in a Ronit More (2 for 45) over before Majumdar took Bengal past 100 with two boundaries.

Like on so many occasions this season, Ahmed mixed caution with aggression to rebuild the tattered innings. He hit seven fours and, with Majumdar added 72 off 119 balls before Abhimanyu Mithun (3 for  65) cleaned him up with one that shaped away after angling in.

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Majumdar took his time, anchored the lower-order after Ahmed's dismissal, and stepped on the gas towards the end to add a valuable 103 off 136 balls for the eighth wicket with Deep.

Deep hit three fours and as many sixes in his 72-ball 44 before K. Gowtham (2 for 88) trapped him in front.

Top-order meltdown

With the pitch looking a seamer's paradise at the start, Karun Nair won the toss and gave Karnataka fast bowlers first use of it. The pitch had bounce, and it persisted through the day. Mithun and Prasidh Krishna (2 for 62) kept probing around the good length outside the off stump and found considerable seam movement.

Soon enough, the disciplined bowling paid dividends when Abhishek Raman became the first batsman to be dismissed through DRS in the Ranji Trophy. Mithun bowled full and wide and Raman, who saw the width, went hard on the drive but edged it back to the wicketkeeper, with Nair successfully reviewing for caught behind.

Poor form

It was going to be a massive test of character for Abhimanyu Easwaran, and the early signs were promising. He judged the line and length and left well at every opportunity. But having done the hard work, Easwaran, trying to flick a full delivery from Krishna — first ball after a change of end — hit it straight to Rahul at square leg.

Arnab Nandi and Sudip Chatterjee compiled 26 for the third wicket when B. R. Sharath's acrobatic take behind the stumps sent Nandi back. Manoj Tiwary showed early intent, stepping out to off-spinner K. Gowtham but the latter had the last laugh, with Tiwary holing out to Rahul at mid-off.

And when Sudip Chatterjee's 83-ball vigil came to an end at the stroke of lunch, Bengal was staring at a familiar batting collapse before Majumdar's knock saved it the blushes.

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