The reprieve that Manoj Tiwary enjoyed in his 100th Ranji Trophy game for Bengal after dragging the ball back to his stumps gave optimists reason to cheer.
Rival bowlers overstepping has bailed Bengal out earlier as well, with the semi-final versus Karnataka at Eden Gardens being the latest instance where Anustup Majumdar, the hero of that game, was saved by a no-ball in a difficult second innings.
Tiwary’s luck didn’t last long, but Sudip Chatterjee’s fortune hasn’t betrayed him yet as despite being under immense pressure, Bengal are still afloat in this final here at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
At stumps on Day III, Bengal were 134/3 in reply to Saurashtra’s first innings total of 425.
In the final over of the day, Sudip asked for a review after he was adjudged leg-before off left-arm quick Chetan Sakariya, by umpire Yeshwant Barde, who replaced the injured C Shamshuddin. The decision to review saved Sudip as television replays showed the ball had found the edge of his bat first before hitting the pad.
That phase turned out to be a truly testing one for Sudip and Wriddhiman Saha, the other unbeaten batsman. With the ball reversing and the pitch not getting any better for batting, Sudip and Saha couldn’t score any runs off the last 59 balls of the day.
Saurashtra players tried to make things more difficult for the duo with their clap therapy, which became redundant during Sudip and Tiwary’s vital third-wicket stand of 89.
Tiwary looked solid barring that one error when he played on to a Chirag Jani ball pitched wide off the off stump. He was on 18 then. With a confident Tiwary on one end, Sudip too started gaining in confidence, hitting a few delightful strokes.
But Jani finally had his man when one of his deliveries tailed back in keeping very low and trapped the former Bengal captain plumb in front.
Saurashtra bowlers couldn’t make any further strikes following that breakthrough, but they have certainly forced Sudip and Saha to go into a shell with their accurate bowling. Saha’s only scoring shot as of now has been the cover drive for four to get off the mark.
The likes of skipper Jaydev Unadkat, Sakariya and Jani bowled probing lines in the last hour of the day that gives Saurashtra a healthy edge.
Bengal still have Anustup, Shahbaz Ahmed and Arnab Nandi, all of whom can get runs. But it all depends on how well Sudip and Saha can withstand the pressure in the first session on Thursday.