Tiwary, Shahbaz hold firm for Bengal after MP makes early inroads

Manoj Tiwary (84 n.o., 182b, 9×4) and Shahbaz Ahmed (72 n.o., 149b, 9×4) showed stomach for the fight after a lamentable first dig from its top order saw Bengal crumble to 54 for five in response to Madhya Pradesh’s first-innings score of 341 during the second day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal in Alur on Wednesday.

The pair’s unbroken stand of 143 took Bengal to 197 for five at Stumps, still 144 behind.

It looked like a good day for fast bowling – damp and overcast for the large part. But MP instead opened with Kumar Kartikeya’s (two for 43) left-arm orthodox spin. The move worked as Kartikeya removed Abhishek Raman and Sudip Gharami for ducks in the very first over.

Raman chopped on trying to cut a ball that spun sharply while Gharami was undone by drift and turn. Off-spinner Saransh Jain struck immediately after Lunch when Anustup Majumdar nicked to first slip.

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Walking in at 11 for three, Tiwary swept and reverse swept Jain for three fours. All the while Abhimanyu Easwaran had been playing solidly in defence, putting on a busy stand of 33 with Tiwary. But the former’s dismissal off Puneet Datey’s bowling was a blow. And Bengal lurched from bad to worse when Abishek Porel holed out at deep square off the same bowler.

However, Tiwary and Ahmed fought back in earnest. There was a brief scare here when Ahmed was caught behind on 15. But the umpires checked for a bump ball, and the replays confirmed it was collected on the half-volley.

Otherwise, he held firm. Tiwary too batted beautifully. He swept the spinners confidently and repelled the seamers with authority. Tiwary, who is nursing a broken cartilage in the knee, refrained from playing inside out over cover or anything aerial. Both batters constructed two sessions of obstinate yet positive resistance and were cheered on by a small, yet boisterous crowd seated on the boundary wall at the ground. Ahmed’s nine fours drew loud roars of ‘RCB! RCB!’ even.

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In the final session, the MP bowlers looked bereft of ideas and at one point, even urged the umpires to change the ball in a slightly animated discussion that involved Tiwary as well. However, the umpires didn’t budge.

Earlier, overnight showers delayed the start of Day 2 until 10 am. Bengal quick Mukesh Kumar (four for 66) looked for swing and was guilty of being too full. He was taken off after three overs but not before Datey had carved him for two fours. Sayan Mondal, who replaced Mukesh, was inaccurate. Himanshu Mantri (165, 327b, 19×4, 1×6) first drove him over the infield to get to his 150 before tickling one down to fine leg for four more.

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When Ahmed replaced Mondal after just one over, Datey launched him over long-off for six. But Ahmed had the last laugh, getting Datey caught behind for 33 to stunt a 64-run association with Mantri for the seventh wicket.

Shortly after, Mantri’s 327-ball vigil ended when he edged behind for 165. He walked back to a standing ovation from the MP dressing room and generous applause from the Bengal support staff. The last two wickets offered little resistance, with MP adding 70 to its overnight score before being bowled out.

The scores:

Madhya Pradesh — 1st innings: Yash Dubey lbw b Mukesh 9, Himanshu Mantri c Abhishek Porel b Mukesh 165, Shubham Sharma b Pramanik 17, Rajat Patidar c Tiwary b Mukesh 7, Aditya Shrivastava b Shahbaz Ahmed 10, Akshat Raghuwanshi lbw b Akash 63, Saransh Jain b Akash 17, Puneet Datey c Abishek Porel b Shahbaz Ahmed 33, Anubhav Agarwal (not out) 2, Kumar Kartikeya c Akash b Shahbaz Ahmed 6, Gaurav Yadav c Abishek Porel b Mukesh 0; Extras (b 7, lb 2, nb 3): 12.

Total: (all out in 105.3 overs): 341.

Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-59, 3-72, 4-97, 5-220, 6-259, 7-323, 8-333, 9-340, 10-341.

Bengal bowling: Mukesh Kumar 27.3-6-66-4, Akash Deep 26-7-73-2, Sayan Mondal 14-3-47-0, Shahbaz Ahmed 20-3-86-3, Pradipta Pramanik 14-0-50-1, Manoj Tiwary 4-0-10-0.

Bengal – 1st innings: Abhishek Raman b Kartikeya 0, Abhimanyu Easwaran c Himanshu Mantri b Puneet 22, Sudip Gharami b Kartikeya 0, Anustup Majumdar c Rajat Patidar b Saransh 4, Manoj Tiwary (batting) 84, Abishek Porel c Shubham Sharma b Puneet 9, Shahbaz Ahmed (batting) 72; Extras (lb 6): 6.

Total: (for five wkts. in 66 overs) 197.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-0, 3-11, 4-44, 5-54.

Madhya Pradesh bowling: Kumar Kartikeya 25-9-43-2, Saransh Jain 16-3-58-1, Puneet Datey 9-0-34-2, Anubhav Agarwal 5-1-18-0, Gaurav Yadav 8-1-24-0, Shubham Sharma 3-0-14-0.

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