Bengal batted themselves to a position from where they can go for the kill on Day 2 of the Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match against Rajasthan on Thursday.
In reply to the visiting team’s 193, the hosts were 465 for four, set to declare at around lunch on Day 3 before launching an attack to bag full points. Even if they don’t get an outright win, Bengal are certain to reach the semifinals on the basis of their first innings lead as it will take Ajay Jadeja’s depleted and demoralised side more than a miracle to script a turnaround.
What might matter still is that a victory with or without the bonus point —that comes with an innings or 10-wicket win — will make last year’s defeated finalists group champions.
Leading the charge was Manoj Tiwary with an unbeaten 152 (173 balls, 20x4, 3x6) and keeping him company on 72 (73 balls, 14x4) was the man who attracted close to 5000 spectators — probably the biggest turnout at Eden Gardens for a Ranji Trophy match in a decade — Sourav Ganguly. The two have already put together 143 runs.
Resuming on 80 for one, Bengal were on course for a giant total by a 201-run second-wicket stand by opener Subhomoy Das and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala. The latter made 115 (182 balls, 19x4) while Das was out before a run was added to the total for 82 (205 balls, 11x4).
Skipper Deep Dasgupta and Tiwary then shared a fourth-wicket stand of 121 before the former fell about 20 minutes before tea to a loud cheer from the crowd because it brought Ganguly to the middle.
Bengal’s favourite son treated them to some trademark fours on the off side.
Brief scores: Rajasthan 1st innings 193 vs Bengal 1st innings 465 for 4 (S Das 82, A Jhunjhunwala 115, M Tiwary 152 n.o., D Dasgupta 38, S Ganguly 72 n.o.).