UP make competitive 212 on greentop
Bengal 26 for 2 trail Uttar Pradesh 212 (P Gupta 51, Sarkar 4-51) by 186 runs
With six rounds of the Ranji season complete, Bengal are in fifth place of Group B and have played one match more than each of the four teams above them. They desperately need points, and their match against table-toppers Uttar Pradesh is their final home game. All of which meant they served up a green top at Eden Gardens, on which their medium-pacers flourished to bowl out UP for 212.
That might still not be enough though; given the manner in which RP Singh was hooping the ball around, matching that score will be quite a task for a batting line-up missing the services of Manoj Tiwary and Wriddhiman Saha.
None of Bengal's quartet of quicks have express pace, but they troubled the batsmen as there was copious movement and bounce on offer. UP's openers, though, survived the first hour before both Mukul Dagar and Digvijay Singh were dismissed in the space of seven deliveries. Mohammad Kaif's indifferent run of form this season continued as he was trapped lbw for 14, struck around the line of off stump by Ashok Dinda. The only specialist batsman to go on to a significant score was Prashant Gupta, who reached his half-century with a picture-perfect cover drive before nicking a wide, full delivery to slip in the same over.
The middle-order was clueless against the swing and bounce, and UP slid from 79 for 2 to 138 for 8. The last of those wickets came through the ball of the day, and a contender for ball of the Ranji season - medium-pacer Sourav Sarkar got an improbable amount of inswing as his yorker dramatically curved in from well outside off to home in on the base of Amit Mishra's offstump.
Bengal were totally on top at that stage, but UP's lower order again showcased the resilience that has served them so well this season. Ali Murtaza and Imtiaz Ahmed knew they didn't have the defensive technique to keep out the killer ball and so threw their bats around to put on 60, possibly match-turning, runs for the ninth wicket. That ensured UP reached a total of around 200, which is a competitive one on this surface.
RP Singh showed just how tough it will be for Bengal to match UP's first-innings score by producing plenty of cracking deliveries from round the wicket to the right-handers. He got the ball to snake in dangerously towards the stumps, getting rid of two batsmen before the fading light stopped play.
Bengal's batsmen have a serious challenge on their hands on the second morning, and how they fare could well decide the fate of Bengal's season.