Manoj Tiwary hit an attractive century to propel Bengal to 292 for 5 on a flat track at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. Tiwary stitched together a 127-run partnership with Dibyendu Chakrabarty to lift Bengal from 131 for 4 towards a position of relative strength. However, on a batting beauty Bengal need at least 400 to put Tamil Nadu under pressure.
Tiwary has an impressive conversion rate: of the 12 times he has topped fifty, on nine occasions he has gone on to a hundred. He did offer one chance on 109, a caught-and-bowled opportunity which was fluffed by R Ashwin, but was in complete control otherwise. Tiwary employed the conventional sweep as well as the reverse-sweep to upset the spinners' rhythm. The seamers tried to attack with bouncers but Tiwary had no problems pulling on this slow wicket. He reached his hundred with a sweep and continued to play some pleasing drives against the second new ball. A gorgeous straight drive off P Amarnath stood out for its timing and a cheeky late cut after initially shaping to sweep that fooled the slip fielder stood out for its chutzpah.
"This innings is special for me as it came at a time when the team needed someone to put up a big score," Tiwary told the Telegraph. "Also, I had set myself a goal at the start of the season of achieving something big. I am glad that I made a contribution today. I am looking forward to batting out the first session tomorrow. If we can extend our total, it could give us a chance of challenging Tamil Nadu."
Tamil Nadu, to their credit, didn't allow Bengal to send them on a leather hunt. With the ball coming on to the bat fairly slowly, the seamers, particularly L Balaji, concentrated on stifling the batsmen with a tight off-stump line, backed up by a packed and chirpy off-side field.
Balaji, on his comeback season from injury, ran in with effort, bent his back and got a few deliveries to fizz past the openers early on. He varied his deliveries well, mixing bouncers with pacy full-pitched deliveries and was a trifle unlucky to go unrewarded. Scoring was made to look fairly difficult with the bowlers giving very little away and Bengal adopting a cautious approach. The batsmen were so intent on seeing off the new ball that they played out nearly 15 overs without scoring a boundary.
By getting bogged down, Bengal put pressure on themselves. The run rate barely climbed over two an over in the morning session and in the midst of this snooze fest, Tamil Nadu picked up their first wicket. C Ganapathy, the nippy right-arm seamer, got one to angle in and trap Arindham Das - who got a half stride forward - high on the pads.
Das' opening partner, Rohan Banerjee, was rather unfortunately run out after a booming straight drive by Wriddhiman Saha deflected off P Amarnath's palms onto the stumps and caught him backing up too far at the other end. His dismissal brought Tiwary and Saha together in the middle and suddenly there was a lot of positive energy to the batting.
Amarnath was punished for bowling a fraction too short outside the off stump, as the lack of pace allowed both batsmen to rock backward and slash with precision past the crowded off-side field. Ashwin wasn't afraid to flight the ball, even at the expense of a few boundaries. Both used their feet against the spinners to step down and cart the ball over the midwicket region and straight over the bowler's head.
Saha ended the first session with a carve down to third man but fell soon after reaching his fifty. As if caught in a moment of overconfidence, he tried to get a little too cheeky against Ganapathy by sweeping a slow legcutter, only to be comprehensively trapped in front. It became a double breakthrough when Laxmi Ratan Shukla swept Ashwin, only to see the ball lob off Abhinav Mukund's boot at forward short leg and into Dinesh Karthik's gloves.
Tiwary's fine hundred and Chakrabarty's gritty resistance, however, ensured Bengal didn't throw away the advantage of batting first on a placid track.