All attention was on Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina as Punjab and Uttar Pradesh braced for action in the Ranji Trophy season-opener, on how the respective captains, axed from the India squad, would respond.
However, it became clear that battle will have to wait once Harbhajan won the toss and elected to bat, leaving RP Singh, another India discard, to make an early point on a helpful PCA Stadium pitch.
That was until teenaged Punjab batsman Mandeep Singh seized the moment. The 19-year-old, an India U-19 squad member, rescued the hosts from trouble by slamming a career-best unbeaten 158.
Just a season old in Ranji Trophy, and having played just seven first class games, Mandeep walked in when Punjab had lost both their openers and were down to 51 for two. He had guided the team to 329 for five wickets in 91 overs at stumps.
Mandeep showed maturity in his shot selection but enjoyed a huge slice of luck when on 34 after a delivery from Sudeep Tyagi hit the stumps but the bails were not dislodged. He went on to score his third first-class century, his 264-ball innings including 25 hits to the fence. "I was looking to bat the whole day. When I went in, the ball was doing a bit as is always the case in Mohali, but luckily I got some loose balls at the start which got me going," he said.
RP Singh provided the breakthroughs, finishing with figures of 4 for 60 in 20 overs.
Brief scores: Punjab 329/5 in 91 overs (Mandeep 158, Goel 68; RP Singh 4/60).
tiwary's 120 not out steadies bengal
Kolkata: Captain Manoj Tiwary's unbeaten 120 guided West Bengal to 261 for 4 on the opening day of their Ranji Trophy super league group B match against Gujarat at the Eden Gardens.
Tiwary shared a yet-to-be-broken 105-run partnership with Wriddhiman Saha (41 not out) while former India captain Sourav Ganguly also chipped in with 34 off 63 - packed with seven boundaries - as Bengal started strongly.
While Tiwary garnered his 120 off 234 balls while Saha Made made 41 off 73 balls.
Brief scores: Bengal 261/4 in 90 overs (Tiwary 120*, Saha 41*; Ganguly 34, Panchal 2/22).