Sanju Samson propped up the Kerala innings with his 10th Ranji Trophy century, but Bengal hit back with late wickets at the end of an engrossing opening day's play in an Elite Group A and B match at the KCA - St. Xavier's College ground on Tuesday.
On a day when he crossed 3000 first class runs, Sanju's knock saw Kerala reach 237 for seven at stumps.
It wasn't, however, an innings of pristine quality, but Sanju overcame his initial struggles against the moving ball and survived a dropped chance on 49, when Koushik Ghosh missed a sitter at silly point off Mukesh Kumar.
The wicketkeeper-batsman walked in when Kerala was in a spot of bother at 15 for two. Subsequently, he took little time to settle down, greeting left arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed with two boundaries. The impetuosity died down later and soon the aggressive innings tapered into a watchful one.
But once again, as the conditions improved , Sanju grew in confidence and played with his trademark flourish. The latter part of his innings was more fluent and he dominated the 138-run stand with Robin Uthappa for the fourth wicket. After Arnab Nandi dismissed Uthappa (50) and Vishnu Vinod (0) off successive deliveries, Sanju added 34 runs with Salman Nizar.
Earlier, Sachin Baby won the toss and curiously opted to bat under overcast conditions. The ball darted around much to the discomfort of the Kerala openers - Rahul and Jalaj Saxena. Ishan Porel ended Rahul's stay at the crease by inducing an edge, which was pouched by Shreevats Goswami. Jalaj (9) left soon after, edging Mukesh Kumar to Shreevats . Baby's (10) unconvincing innings ended when Ashoke Dinda breached the Kerala captain's defense to leave the side struggling at 53 for three. The fourth wicket stand, however, frustrated the visitor.