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January 21, 2006
Bengal 246 for 5 (Subhomoy Das 115, Dasgupta 50*) lead Baroda 241 by 5 runs
Though he chipped in with useful runs this season - he averages over 40 - Das had not gone on to make a hundred. An 83 against Railways in his previous match was his best return, and he could not have timed his first century of the season - and third in first-class cricket - better. His 115, from 215 deliveries and with 15 hits to the fence, put his side in a position from which they can build a lead.
It was not all smooth sailing, however. With their medium-pacers moving the ball around throughout the first day's play, Bengal's batsmen had enough reason to be wary of the grass remaining on the Kotla pitch. Those worries became a reality as Bengal were left reeling at 2 for 10 following a twin strike from Rakesh Patel, Baroda's opening bowler. Arindam Das was the first to fall, edging one to Pinal Shah, the wicketkeeper, while Abhishek Jhunjhunwala followed 10 deliveries later, trapped leg before for 0. Baroda had their tails up, but in Manoj Tiwary, Das found an able ally and the two were able to stave off any further threat. Tiwary showed good composure in his 37, and with Das steady at the other end, the duo added 98 for the third wicket.
At lunch, Bengal were 93 for 2, Das having brought up his fifty off 78 deliveries in good time. Following the interval, however, Baroda fought their way back thanks to Rajesh Pawar, the slow left-arm bowler, who prised out Tiwary and Kamal Mondal as Bengal slipped to 128 for 4. Dasgupta, known for his ability to stick it out when the situation arises, put his head down and by tea Bengal had progressed to 161 without further loss.
Das brought up his hundred - and the 50 partnership with Dasgupta - immediately after play resumed, but fell thereafter as Yusuf Pathan snapped up a return catch. Dasgupta, batting on 50, will need to carry on as the third day's play resumes tomorrow. Baroda, for their part, stuck to a plan - Patel, Pawar and Pathan were economical - and broke partnerships at key junctures.
Bengal's batsmen, who have not fared well in two previous first innings against Railways and Tamil Nadu, needed to show enough resolve and diligence to make their path to the title round easier. Speaking to the The Telegraph in Kolkata yesterday, Paras Mhambrey, Bengal's coach, said: "The target tomorrow would be to overtake 241 and then build on from there. A score around 450-plus should be enough to seal the game." While the first half of this plan has been accomplished, it is up to the remaining batsmen to follow the lead of Das and Dasgupta.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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