Ranji Trophy: Anustup Majumdar ton lifts Bengal after Karnataka strikes
Arms spread, Anustup Majumdar smiled before signalling for a drink. A pulled four off Prasidh Krishna had taken him to 103 and slayed the demons of being dismissed on 99 the last time Bengal played at Eden Gardens.
Next over, Majumdar hit Abhimanyu Mithun for a six over midwicket and followed that up with a four past cover. After doing it against Hyderabad, Delhi, and scoring 157 against Odisha, Bengal’s go-to man in a crisis had delivered again.
With a counter-attacking Shahbaz Ahmed (35 - 7x4), Majumdar added 72 for the seventh wicket before he and Akash Deep (44 - 3x4, 3x6) put on 103 for the eighth.
These partnerships breathed life into an innings Karnataka had choked soon after electing to field in this Ranji Trophy semi-final on Saturday. Ahmed was dropped on 30 by wicket-keeper S Sharath off K Gowtham and Deep on 37 by skipper Karun Nair, who failed to hold on to a stiff chance at cover off Krishna. Bengal scored 107 runs in the post-lunch session and 102 after tea.
Majumdar had walked in before the first session was over and at stumps was unconquered on 120 (173b - 251m, 18x4, 1x6) with Bengal on 275/9. Ishan Porel was batting on zero.
“Shahbaz and Akash Deep changed the equation. Shahbaz is an attacking player and when he hit some good balls for boundaries, it helped me too as they started bowling back of length.
“The innings against Odisha was crucial but given the occasion and the bowling attack, I would rate this better,” said Majumdar, 35, who quit his Railways job to play for Bengal.
Majumdar drove well, wasn’t afraid to pull or hook and was comfortable playing off his hips. Till he was sure that Deep could offer a straight bat, Majumdar also farmed the strike. He got to his 50 with a backfoot punch off Gowtham and moved into the 90s with a cover-driven four off Krishna.
At 66/5, lunch wouldn’t go down well with the batting team but this has been normal service for Bengal.
In 15 innings prior to Saturday, they have had two opening partnerships over 50, both in the second innings.
Abhishek Raman went first, edging an attempted cover-drive off Mithun (3/65) to Sharath and Bengal hadn’t opened the scoring then. The abridged version of the Decision Review System (DRS) was called to use for the first of the four times in the day in the third over with Karnataka successful in pleading their case.
Skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran also fell to a poor shot, trying to flick an overpitched Krishna (2/62) delivery and scooping to K Gowtham at square-leg. Despite not making the batsmen play enough, Karnataka had Bengal on 17/2. Promoted above Manoj Tiwary, Arnab Nandi and Sudip Chatterjee stopped the haemorrhage.
Nandi hit off-spinner Gowtham for two boundaries in his first over, but fell to the first ball off Mithun’s second spell, Sharath flying to his left to catch the inside edge.
Tiwary too stuck into Gowtham (2/88) but gifted his wicket trying a loft too many. And after gritting it through the difficult phase, Chatterjee was trapped leg-before by an incoming delivery from the impressive Ronit More (2/45), who also dismissed Shreevats Goswami three balls later to make it 67/6.
Not for the first time it was left to Ahmed and Majumdar to rescue Bengal. It took the delivery of the day from Mithun to prise out Ahmed—the ball straightening after pitching and clipping off-stump. By the time Deep was trapped leg-before by Gowtham, Bengal had reached 258.