Skipper Naman Ojha cracked a patient half-century with Madhya Pradesh making a strong reply against Bengal in its Ranji Trophy Elite Group B fixture on Wednesday.
Ojha held the innings together with his 151-ball 74 before getting out to part-time leg-spinner Anustup Majumdar, who took two wickets in two overs (2/20) to raise hopes of another three points.
At close on the penultimate day, MP was 254/5, trailing Bengal by 256 runs. Yash Dubey (20 not out) and Ankit Sharma (9 not out) were at the crease.
Earlier Bengal pacer Ashok Dinda (2/42) dismissed both the MP openers, Aryaman Birla (12) and Ankit Dane (38), as the visitor was 65/2 inside the first hour’s play.
But Ojha stayed on, stitching two fifty-plus partnerships with Rajat Patidar (49) and Shubham Sharma (45) in the first and second sessions respectively.
Fresh from his career-best 196 against Tamil Nadu, MP No. 3 Patidar batted well before being bowled by off-spinner Aamir Gani one run short of a half-century just after the lunch break.
Sharma then gave Ojha a fine support as they made Bengal bowlers toil in an 88-run partnership. With Bengal going for an extra batsman, there was extra load on the four-bowling attack as it struggled to get a breakthrough.
“You have to take pressure. I am prepared to take the extra load. One bowler short did not affect,” Dinda said after the day's proceedings.
“It’s about going slowly. First all about securing three points, then we will think about six points.”
The Bengal pacer said he has no complaints about the wicket.
“I don’t think it’s a bad wicket. One of their bowlers (Shubham Sharma) has taken five wickets. Our batsman (Manoj Tiwary) has got a double century. We have to do well. Fourth day will be a different wicket. The first hour will be crucial.”
His pace bowling partners Ishan Porel and B. Amit failed to take any wickets and were a bit more expensive.
“I have played 108 matches, while they have played seven matches each. You have to give them time. I have a lot of confidence. They are brand new, they will learn with experience.”
Skipper Manoj Tiwary had to try out different options as he brought on Anustup. The move clicked as dismissed both Ojha and Sharma in two overs to revive Bengal’s hope.
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