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Bengal let go advantage

- Sourav Sarkar picks up three wickets; Smit Patel scores 67
Sourav Sarkar at the Eden, on Saturday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Whether it was a good decision from Bengal to put the opposition in on a relatively flat track after winning the toss is a debatable matter.

But as of now, the hosts seem to have lost the advantage in this Ranji Trophy Group A tie at the Eden. Gujarat picked themselves out of a hole to post 230 for six when play was called off half-an-hour before scheduled close owing to bad light.

Manprit Juneja (41) and Rakesh Dhruv (38) were at the crease, having stitched together a valuable 66-run partnership for the seventh wicket after Gujarat were reduced to 164 for six in the second session. With the pitch expected to flatten out further, the visitors would pin their hopes on the duo as they resume their battle on Sunday morning.

For Bengal, the onus would be on wrapping up the remaining Gujarat wickets as early as possible to gain a firm foothold in the match. The scenario, though, could have been far better had captain Manoj Tiwary not grassed an edge from Juneja — off the bowling of Dinda — at first slip when the batsman was on 32.

However, with the second new ball due in the next seven overs, Bengal still find themselves with an opportunity to restrict their rivals.

The start, though, was an ideal one Tiwary’s team. Gujarat wobbled their way to 21 for two in the first 10 overs, with pacer Sourav Sarkar (three for 57) bowling a probing line to get rid of Priyank Panchal and Niraj Patel in quick succession.

Consistently bowling in the off-stump region, Sarkar first induced a thick edge from opener Panchal — perishing in the slip-cordon — before removing Niraj, who nicked one to ’keeper Wriddhiman Saha.

Pity that Sarkar hardly got any support from the other end as Dinda eased the pressure of both Smit Patel (67) and captain Parthiv Patel (61) with his over-pitched stuff and juicy half-volleys.

Credit should be given to both Smit and Parthiv as well, as the pair latched on to every scoring opportunity, unleashing some delightful strokes. Smit, yet again, was impressive after his half-centuries against Madhya Pradesh and Saurashtra. Getting off the mark with a fine leg-glance, the 19-year-old showed good composure and played within his limits.

Not even once did he appear tentative or vulnerable despite the loss of two early wickets.

The in-form Parthiv, at the other hand, was his usual self and took on the Bengal attack immediately with shots on both sides of the wicket.

With the pitch offering hardly any movement or carry, Smit and Parthiv added 95 runs in quick time, which threatened to take the game away from Bengal.

But just as Parthiv set himself up for another big one, he edged a straighter one from Iresh Saxena in the last over before lunch to help Bengal heave a sigh of relief.

Parthiv’s dismissal looked to open the floodgates as Bengal scalped three more Gujarat wickets in the next hour.

Smit, who appeared to be solid, was a victim of lapse in concentration, edging a wide delivery to gift pacer Shami Ahmed his first wicket. It was a reckless shot to say the least, and one absolutely uncalled for, especially after Dinda had bowled Venugopal Rao.

There was further joy in store for Bengal when Sarkar returned in his third spell to send Rujul Bhatt back.