Ranji Trophy: Gritty Andhra takes crucial lead against Bengal

Beginning at overnight total of 108 for the loss of two wickets, Andhra surpassed Bengal's first innings aggregate of 300 and closed at 321 for nine to practically seal the fate of the match with a day to spare.

Ricky Bhui and K.S. Bharat stitched an important partnership and helped Andhra take vital first innings lead.   -  K.R. Deepak

Collective show of grit from Andhra batsmen fetched the host crucial first innings lead against Bengal in the Ranji Trophy Group B match at the YSR ACA VDCA Stadium on Monday.

Beginning at overnight total of 108 for the loss of two wickets, Andhra surpassed Bengal's first innings aggregate of 300 and closed at 321 for nine to practically seal the fate of the match with a day to spare.

As it happened: Ranji Trophy Round 7, Day 3

Even as Andhra lost C.R. Gnaneshwar, who added two runs to his overnight score of 64 before being caught at short leg off Ishan Porel, in the sixth over of the morning, Ricky Bhui (52) and K.S. Bharat (61) stitched together an important partnership of 84 runs for the fourth wicket.

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Determined to stay put at the crease, Bhui, who has been collecting runs this season consistently, did not mind scoring at a lethargic pace.

Bharat batted more freely, mixing caution with aggression, as he gathered nine fours, six of which came on the off-side, and a six over fine-leg off Porel.

Bharat was undone by left-arm spinner Pradipta Pramanik, who showed more discipline, in the first over after lunch, but Bhui continued with his dogged pursuit to add 34 runs with B. Sumanth (20) and 28 with Girinath Reddy (34).

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Bhui, who picked up three of his five fours on the leg-side, guided Ashok Dinda to the point boundary to get his half-century.

The Bengal pacers, led by Dinda, unleashed a high intensity attack – comprising a barrage of short deliveries, exchange of words and a bit of gamesmanship – for nearly one-and-a-half hours on a batting-friendly pitch.

Bhui fell to the temptation of upper-cutting Dinda, but rookie Girinath and Shoaib Khan (9), who was let off early, blunted the Bengal attack with courage and determination. Girinath's 31-run stand with Shoaib virtually put paid to Bengal's hope.

The visitor was dealt a double blow, claiming Shoaib and Girinath in consecutive deliveries off Pramanik and Mukesh Kumar respectively, when Andhra was at 290. However, the tail-enders managed to withstand the pressure and get the job done.

Brief scores: Bengal 300 all out (Manoj Tiwary 90, Writtick Bijoy Chatterjee 76, Pradipta Pramanik 43, Prithvi Raj Yarra 3/81) vs Andhra 321/9 (C.R. Gnaneshwar 66, Ricky Bhui 52, K.S. Bharat 61, Mukesh Kumar 3/45) leads by 21 runs.