Ranji Trophy: Easwaran, Tiwary deal a blow to Punjab’s hopes
If this does turn out to be their last Ranji Trophy innings of the season, Abhimanyu Easwaran and Manoj Tiwary ensured it would be an affair to remember. Their 180-run unbeaten third wicket stand with Easwaran batting on 100 (11x4; 157b) and Tiwary unconquered on 90 (9x4; 1x6; 146b) took Bengal to 218/2, reducing Punjab’s lead to 42.
This was Easwaran’s 10th first-class ton and his second successive three-figure knock in the second innings. Easwaran had made a match-winning unbeaten 183 against Delhi last week.
Punjab added 84 runs for the last wicket after Mukesh Kumar and Ashoke Dinda struck in the first two overs to remove overnight batsmen Vinay Choudhary (14) and Anmolpreet Singh (126; 13x4, 1x6; 292b). Kumar ended with 5/114 for his second career five-wicket haul.
From 363/9, the strong arm of Manpreet Gony took Punjab to 447, a lead of 260. “I think they will set us a target. We can still achieve a result,” said Anmolpreet.
Gony made the most of being caught off a no-ball from Dinda on 21 --- Punjab were then 200 ahead of Bengal’s first innings score of 187 --- to equal his highest first-class score of 69 (6x4; 5x6). He took 22 runs off an Anustup Majumdar over, hitting the part-time leggie for three sixes and a four. One of the sixes came because Sudip Chatterjee had stepped on the rope at midwicket, another was a result of Writtick Chatterjee letting one slip through his fingers at long-off.
Then Gony dismissed Abhishek Raman, caught by wicket-keeper Gitansh Khera. When Sudip Chatterjee was bowled by the first ball Kaul sent down on Wednesday to reduce Bengal to 38/2, an early end seemed possible.
Easwaran and Tiwary then produced a batting display of style and substance on a wicket whose lack of assistance to spinners left Bengal mentor Arun Lal disappointed. Easwaran reverse-swept spinners Vinay Choudhary and Mayank Markande for fours and played confidently on both sides of the wicket.
Tiwary did give three half-chances but was also more flamboyant. He started by stepping out to the spinners, hit Choudhary for six in the first ball after tea, swept Markande fine and when Kaul dropped it short, he bisected fine-leg and deep square-leg with a pull that kissed the ground. Tiwary also upper-cut Kaul for a four, played copybook cover-drives and moved to 90 with a delectable steer between slip and gully.
“If this is our last game, we will bat till the last ball. They (Punjab) killed the match; they thought we will roll over. They were unthinking by not giving a sporting declaration. Ideally, I would have wanted them to chase 240 in about 40 overs. In that endeavour, maybe we could have won too,” said Lal.