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Manoj shows class, unbeaten on 102

- Ranji Trophy Subhamoy scores a brilliant 75
Manoj Tiwary and Subhamoy Das during their partnership, at the Eden, on Sunday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: “It’s just a matter of time before I get a big score,” Manoj Tiwary had said on the eve of Bengal’s Ranji Trophy match against Gujarat.

And he has finally got one — a knock that truly counts. The captain’s 17th first-class century at the Eden, on Sunday, certainly raised Bengal’s chances of gaining a crucial first-innings lead over Gujarat before they can press for an outright victory.

Little wonder it’s Tiwary’s unbeaten 102 that propelled Bengal to 220 for four before play was called off for the second consecutive day half-an-hour before the end due to insufficient light, in reply to Gujarat’s 260.

With Anustup Majumdar (4) being the other batsman at the crease and the in-form Laxmi Ratan Shukla to follow, there could be further agony for the visitors, as their bowling attack too appears toothless.

They did, though, make early inroads, having reduced Bengal to 19 for two. Both the openers Parthasarathi Bhattacharjee and Sreevats Goswami were shaky, especially the latter who looked awfully out of sorts. Bhattacharjee paid for shuffling too much across the stumps as pacer Kushang Patel trapped him leg before.

Then Goswami, after a painstaking 19-ball stay at the crease, played an atrocious shot to edge to wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel, off the bowling of Rush Kalaria (three for 58).

There was every possibility of the game drifting away from Bengal before Subhamoy Das (75) — coming in at No. 3 — and Tiwary consolidated to stitch a vital 101-run partnership for the third wicket.

Precisely, Das’ role was a significant one to ease the pressure off Tiwary. Besides, an element of fluency witnessed in the 30-year-old’s knock was as good as overruling the fact that he has been in and out of the playing XI in the recent past. Unleashing a flurry of boundaries, especially in the cover and mid-off region, Das not just threw a spanner in the works of Gujarat, but also allowed Tiwary ample time to settle down.

Das only looked better and better as his innings progressed. But just when the magical three-figure mark seemed imminent, he perished, failing to clear the deep fine-leg fielder. A soft dismissal, as Das himself would agree, since it was a rank half-tracker from Kalaria, which should have been dispatched.

Thereafter, the show was all about Tiwary.

Not at all unnerved by Das’ departure, Tiwary took it upon himself to keep the scoreboard ticking.

He did have a let-off on 27 when a thick edge, off the bowling of Kalaria, went in between the first and second slip to yield four runs. But barring that, Tiwary had no trouble whatsoever in tackling the Gujarat bowlers.

Not even once did his concentration waver, even when Wriddhiman Saha (27) — promoted up the order at No. 5 — fell to Kalaria with Smit Patel taking a wonderful catch at backward square-leg.

He rather looked more determined, played a couple of delightful strokes to get closer to his century and brought it up finally with a leg-glance for four. For sure, the captain has produced a timely knock, which further supplements his bowlers’ efforts early in the morning.

Resuming at 230 for six, Gujarat, it seemed, lost the resolve that was shown towards close of first day’s play. Both the overnight batsmen Manprit Juneja (48) and Rakesh Dhruv (41) fell in quick succession that dented the visitors’ hopes of putting up a fighting total.

Pacer Ashok Dinda (three for 73) struck in his very first over on Sunday when he had Juneja caught and bowled, diving onto his left.

Soon after, Shami Ahmed picked up Dhruv, who gave catching practice in the slip-cordon before Dinda removed Kushang.

Sourav Sarkar then returned and sent back last man Faizal Dudhat, adding one more wicket to his haul to finish with figures of four for 60.