Calcutta: Bengal face a grim battle for survival against Uttar Pradesh in their Ranji Trophy tie. The visitors were ahead by 288 runs at close on the second day after the home bowlers were made to toil at the Eden.
Mohammed Kaif took centre stage after the early departure of Suresh Raina (63) with a polished 91 and, along with Piyush Chawla (53), dented the home sides hopes. Bengal bowlers lacked the discipline and penetration to put the brakes on the batsmens scoring spree.
With three wickets still in hand, Uttar Pradesh will look to consolidate their lead, putting more pressure on the Bengal batsmen who now will need to show some character after the first innings debacle.
The fall of two wickets in the first hour on Tuesday hardly caused a ripple in the Uttar Pradesh camp as Kaif used his experience to guide the side to safety. He added 92 for the fifth wicket with Ravikant Shukla and was then involved in another 86-run stand with Chawla.
The weakness in Bengals attack was exposed Ranadeb Boses poor form and a stingless Sourashish Lahiri only making things easier for the visitors. Shib Shankar Paul was the exception, completing a five-wicket haul. Sourav Sarkar picked up two wickets in the last session.
Ranadeb was not able to trouble the batsmen with pace or movement. He was wayward and guilty of wasting the second new ball. No doubt the pacer will rue the fact that chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar viewed one of his worst performances.
Paul bowled within his limitations and troubled the batsmen in the corridor of uncertainty. The lack of support at the other end did not help but he stuck to his task. He hasnt been a regular in the side after missing last season because of injury but made good use of the opportunity here. A clenched fist in the direction of the dressing room after scalping his fifth wicket was meant to send a signal to the team management.
Amazingly, Laxmi Ratan Shukla did not bowl on the day. His leadership was not inspirational and it was reflected in the teams body language.
The biggest disappointment has been Sourashish. Back in the team after being dropped for the last match against Orissa, the off-spinners showing may force the selectors to dump him again.
Kaifs application and concentration were exemplary. Before his departure to a miscued pull, he had hardly put a foot wrong during his 272-minute stay at the wicket.
The biggest revelation was Chawlas batting, the leggie showing he was fast developing into an accomplished allrounder with some solid batting. Kaif, though, will be hoping Piyush can call up a trick or two with the ball too.
Meanwhile, Manoj Tiwary has been fined 50 per cent of his match fee for showing dissent after his dismissal on the opening day of the Ranji tie against Uttar Pradesh. Match Referee I.S. Sachdeva announced the decision on Tuesday.
Tiwary made his displeasure clear after being adjudged leg before for two and even argued with umpire S. Ranade.