A 164-run partnership for the third wicket between Manoj Tiwary and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala helped Bengal make a difficult proposition look easy. And having done that, Bengal entered their second consecutive Ranji Trophy Elite group final. The final will be played against Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium from February 2.
This is Bengal's 13th entry in the final and five of them have been against Mumbai. Bengal have lost on all previous occasions but on Saturday everyone in the team showed enough intent and promise to make a match of it after completing a six-wicket win over Karnataka at the Eden Gardens.
Skipper Deep Dasgupta hit a boundary through extra-cover off Balachandra Akhil to reach the target of 307 runs in the eighth mandatory over. Tiwary was at the other end, unbeaten on 151 after picking up 22 runs in the last over of off-spinner Chandrashekar Raghu.
A six over long-on was followed by a dot ball. The next delivery witnessed another massive six hit straight over the bowler's head and Tiwary followed it up with a boundary to point, a couple to fine-leg and another hit to the point fence.
On Saturday, Bengal needed to add 236 more runs to their overnight score of 71 for two with Jhunjhunwala on five and Tiwary on nine. Early wickets could have scripted a different story. But Tiwary and Jhunjhunwala showed superb application and it was not until the middle of the second session that their partnership was broken. Finally, Jhunjhunwala fell, leg-before to Sunil Joshi on his individual score of 54.
The visitors did get opportunities but they failed to cash on them. Tiwary was on 40 when Akhil dropped him at first slip off Joshi. In Joshi’s very next over, wicketkeeper Thilak Naidu gave Tiwary another lifeline when he missed an easy stumping chance. Tiwary was on 49 then.
Then, there was no looking back for Tiwary, who reached his third first-class century with a boundary over cover off Akhil.
However, there was some disappointment on Saturday for hosts. They were fined 10 per cent of the match fee for slow over-rate while skipper Dasgupta had to forego 20 per cent of his earnings.