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CIMA Gallary

Bengal on the threshold of an innings victory

Calcutta: One may have to flip through the history pages to recall when was the last time Bengal lorded over an opposition in a Ranji Trophy match.

At the Eden, on Monday, it was sheer dominance of Manoj Tiwary and his teammates that has put Bengal in the driving seat against a hapless Gujarat, who stare at an innings defeat.

A good 46 minutes of play were lost towards the end of Day Three as well due to bad light. But with the visitors already reeling at 18 for four having conceded a mammoth 266-run lead — after Bengal declared at 526 for seven — the proceedings could be wrapped up on Tuesday even before the fading light turns up to rescue Gujarat.

And to make matters worse for them, captain Parthiv Patel — mainstay of the Gujarat batting — was dismissed cheaply, adding just 12 to the scoresheet.

The one who’s supposed to feel relieved at the moment is none other than Tiwary. The Bengal captain, after a precious 191 that set the tone for an imposing total, struck in his very first over to send Parthiv back.

The ball kept low and took the edge of Parthiv’s bat before wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha pouched it on the second attempt.

The writing on the wall, thus, is imminent with Parthiv’s departure. Surely, Tiwary couldn’t have asked for anything better, especially in the presence of national selector Rajinder Singh Hans.

Unless and until there’s a miracle, Bengal should walk home with seven vital points to be back in the hunt.

With the captain leading from the front, Anustup Majumdar (68) and all-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla (113 not out) too starred on Monday, piling on further agony over their already battered opponents.

Majumdar, off-colour in his previous appearances, struck form when he himself needed it the most. The 28-year-old, under the scanner for not being among runs lately, had to hand over the vice-captaincy to Saha prior to this game.

Importantly, he produced a neat innings that should help in cementing his place in the batting order. Besides, his assured stay at the centre played a crucial role to get Bengal moving after a tad cautious and watchful start, resuming at 220 for four.

Acquiring the lead in the 18th over, Tiwary and Majumdar then were back to their normal styles. And there was no stopping the flow of runs.

Getting off to a rather quiet start, Tiwary had seen enough and began chancing his arms to bring up his 150 with a six and a four off pacer Rush Kalaria.

But much against the run of play, the 145-run stand (for the fifth wicket) ended as Majumdar was run out because of a misunderstanding. Gujarat bowlers had no respite, though.

In came Shukla, and he was on the ball right away with a flurry of boundaries.

The Tiwary-Shukla pair too hurt Gujarat, who themselves were responsible as well for their plight, having dished out stuffs that were as good as delicacies for Bengal batsmen.

Although Tiwary perished just nine short of a double-century, Shukla continued plundering runs to register his sixth first-class hundred in no time. That too, with a hoick over long-on to deposit left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhruv into the stands.

There was a reprieve, though, for Shukla when he was on 51, as Manprit Juneja dropped him at slip — off the same bowler.

Pacer Shami Ahmed too chipped in with a useful 23 that allowed Shukla to play in his normal aggressive way, as this pair too added as many as 77 for the seventh wicket.

In a nutshell, sizeable partnerships too have contributed to Bengal’s cause — something that Gujarat need to learn for a better show in their coming matches.Manoj misses double century by nine runs; Shukla hits unbeaten 113