Powar hits ton but Shib Paul's five-for restricts Baroda
Baroda 241 (Powar 116, Martin 51, Shib Paul 5-53) v Bengal
Kiran Powar starred with a century and added 102 runs with Jacob Martin for the fourth wicket but Shib Sankar Paul removed both of them enroute to his 13th five-wicket haul to restrict Baroda to 241 by the end of the opening day in the Ranji Trophy semi-final encounter at the Eden Gardens.
Baroda, unbeaten this season and who started the game as slight favourites, struggled early after choosing to bat. With Satyajit Parab, the regular opener, missing the game owing to injury Pinal Shah, the India Under-19 wicketkeeper, opened the batting with Connor Williams but the move failed - Shah fell to Paul off the very second ball of the match. Almost immediately Ranadeb Bose, who has had a lukewarm season so far, trapped Rakesh Solanki in front before Paul had Williams lbw in the 11th over to leave Baroda struggling at 28 for 3. Jacob Martin, the captain, and Kiran Powar put their head down to pull Baroda out of trouble.
With a run tally of 486 Martin has been the leading Baroda run-getter, averaging 69.42, with one century - a superb 251 not out - and three half-centuries and today once again, he led from the front, shepherding his side to 93 for 3 at lunch. Post-lunch the big-hitting Powar took over and led the charge - 40 runs came in less than eight overs - as the duo brought up their 100-run partnership in 127 minutes and off 176 balls, lifting Baroda to 132 before Paul castled Martin and soon removed the next man in, Yusuf Pathan, to pull things back for Bengal.
Powar, who averages a healthy 49.43 this season with four fifties, marched on but didn't get the support at the other end as the Bengal bowlers tightened the screws. Powar was the seventh wicket to fall after a valiant century, with the score at 209, before the tail eked out valuable contributions to take Baroda to a fighting total.
Bengal started the day with a handicap - Rohan Gavaskar, their mainstay in batting, pulled out of the game owing to fever. The impressive bowling performance would have gladdened Deep Dasgupta, Bengal's captain, as it was the bowling which was the cause of concern for the hosts. With Bose and Shiv Sagar Singh, the left-arm spinner, having a disappointing season, Bengal's attack was led by Paul and Sourashish Lahiri. But today, even as Paul carried the attack again, Bose found his feet, grabbing three wickets to hasten the end of Baroda's innings. The absence of Gavaskar has meant that the onus will fall on Arindam Das, Dasgupta, Subhamoy Das and Avishek Jhunjhunwala - who hit a magnificient 139 to defeat Railways at the league stage - to propel Bengal to a good first-innings score.
For Baroda, the absence of Zaheer Khan, away on national duty, will be a huge blow and they will depend on Rajesh Pawar, who has scalped 21 victims at 19.33 this season, to spearhead the attack and Rakesh Patel and Yusuf Pathan to assist him.