Anustup Majumdar struck an unbeaten century to once again become Bengal’s saviour after a familiar top order collapse as he single-handedly took his side to 275 for nine on the opening day of their Ranji Trophy semifinal against a star-studded Karnataka here on Saturday.
Fresh from his career-best 157 from a similar position in the quarterfinals, Majumdar slammed an unbeaten 120 (173 balls; 18×4, 1×6) to revive Bengal innings after they were asked to bat first.
The home side are making a bid to reach the final after 13 years.
The first day’s play also saw the first dismissal via DRS in domestic cricket when Karnataka pace spearhead Abhimanyu Mithun got the wicket of Abhishek Raman (0) in the 16th delivery of the innings.
The DRS was used for the first time in India’s domestic circuit in the two ongoing Ranji semifinals, but only with limited options as there was no HawkEye, Snickometer or UltraEdge.
In an almost action replay of the Odisha match in which they staged a stunning turnaround from 46/5, Bengal were staring down the barrel on Saturday also with their top batsmen, including skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran (15) and Manoj Tiwary (8), back in the pavillion after playing reckless shots.
The scoreboard read a precarious 62/4 when the onus fell once again on Majumdar after Tiwary departed in trying to hit spinner K Gowtham across the line.
There was worse to follow for Bengal when Ronit More (2/45) gave a double blow, dismissing a well-set Sudip Chatterjee (20) and Shreevats Goswami (0) in four balls as the home side were tottering at 67/6 at lunch.
But the veteran Majumdar, who returned to Bengal in 2016 after poor form with the Indian Railways, was full of poise as he revived the innings in the last two sessions with a century stand for the ninth wicket with Akash Deep (44).
All-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed also played his part with a 72-run partnership with Majumdar that came in quick time (119 balls).
The rookie left-hander, who has been a revelation this season, was in his elements with seven exquisite boundaries but only to be cleaned up by a peach of a delivery by Karnataka pace spearhead Abhimanyu Mithun (3/65).
Thereafter, number nine Akash Deep gave full support to Majumdar, smashing three sixes and three boundaries en route to his career-best 44 in an entertaining final session for Bengal.
The duo were at the crease for close to two hours in their 103-run stand from 136 balls, frustrating the Karun Nair-led side who went in for four bowling options to accommodate India opener, KL Rahul, in place of J Suchith.
As the Eden Gardens wicket eased out from the second session and Karnataka’s three-pronged pace attack got tired, Majumdar took full advantage, playing his shots against the sole spinner Krishnappa Gowhtam who bowled 26 overs, including an 18-over marathon spell.
Majumdar spent four hours and 11 minutes during his unbeaten knock from 173 balls. He notched up his ninth first-class hundred, seventh in Ranji Trophy, with a flick in the square leg boundary off Mithun.
Karnataka were also lackluster on the field and dropped two catches — by wicketkeeper S Sharath and skipper Nair as Bengal scripted an amazing recovery.
Gujarat restrain Saurashtra as Sheldon Jackson shines
Led by Arzan Nagwaswalla’s three wickets, Gujarat bowlers produced a disciplined show and restricted Saurashtra to 217 for five on the opening day of their Ranji Trophy semifinal here on Saturday.
For the hosts, only Sheldon Jackson (69 not out) was able to convert his start at the SCA stadium.
Initially, it seemed Gujarat skipper Parthiv Patel’s decision to put Saurashtra in backfired, but the bowlers made a splendid comeback and pegged the hosts back on two occasions.
Saurashtra openers Harvik Desai (35) and Kishan Parmar (37) gave the hosts a sedate start and negated the early challenge well, especially the questions posed by medium-pacer Chitan Gaja (0-42).
Parmar got a life when he was caught off a no-ball and then he survived a few thick edges. Gujarat missed another chance as Roosh Kalaria dropped Parmar on 36. Despite the reprieves, Parmar couldn’t convert his start and was cleaned up by left-arm spinner Axar Patel (2-47). The openers added 62 runs for the first wicket.
Avi Barot (27) then joined Desai as Saurashtra took lunch at 87 for one.
However, post-lunch Gujarat bagged two wickets in two overs. First, Desai departed after being caught by Bhargav Merai off medium-pacer Nagwaswalla (3-40), and in the very next over, Barot played recklessly and was caught by Dhruv Ravel, as the hosts slipped to 102 for three.
Then, Vishwaraj Jadeja (26) and senior pro Jackson, steadied the ship and lifted Saurashtra to 160 for three at tea.
But, right after tea, Nagwaswalla grabbed two wickets in two balls to leave Saurashtra tottering at 162 for five. Jadeja edged to Parthiv and senior pro Arpit Vasavada was caught by Rujul Bhatt. His double blow brought Gujarat back into the game.
The fall of wickets did not bother Jackson, who stood firm at the other end. He hammered nine boundaries and two towering sixes in his unbeaten knock. He also found an able allay in Chirag Jani (16 not out) as the two rebuilt the innings with their unbroken 55-run stand.
Bengal: 275/9 from 82 overs (Anustup Majumdar 120 batting; Akash Deep 44, Shahbaz Ahmed 35; Abhimanyu Mithun 3/65) vs Karnataka.
Saurashtra 217/5 (Sheldon Jackson 69 no; Kishan Parmar 37; Arzan Nagwaswalla 3-40) versus Gujarat.