Sakariya, Unadkat put Saurashtra in commanding position
Shahbaz Ahmed and Abishek Porel offered brief resistance with fifties before Bengal were bowled out for 174
Saurashtra 81 for 2 (Desai 38*, Mukesh 1-23) trail Bengal 174 (Shahbaz 69, A Porel 50, Sakariya 3-33, Unadkat 3-44) by 93 runs
Saurashtra's fast-bowling trio of Chetan Sakariya, Jaydev Unadkat and Chirag Jani made full use of a lively Eden Gardens pitch on day one of the Ranji Trophy final to bowl Bengal out for 174 in the first innings. In what is a rematch of the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy final, Saurashtra's batters then added 81 for 2 to give them the early advantage in their pursuit for a second title in three seasons.
Bengal's batting capitulation started early when Saurashtra captain Unadkat, released from India's Test squad to play in the final, struck in the first over with an inswinger that dismissed Abhimanyu Easwaran with a bat-pad catch to short leg. The other opener, debutant Sumanta Gupta, was out next over to Sakariya off a rising length delivery that popped to the slip cordon. Two balls later, Bengal were 2 for 3 in the first ten balls of the match, when No. 3 Sudip Kumar Gharami left a beautiful Sakariya delivery only to see it swing back in and rattle his stumps.
Unadkat then switched his angle to around the wicket, and was rewarded with Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary's wicket - edged to gully for 7. Jani soon dismissed Anustup Majumdar caught-behind for 16, while allrounder Akash Ghatak found a short ball from Sakariya too hot to handle. At 65 for 6, Bengal and their sizeable home crowd were deflated.
But allrounder Shahbaz Ahmed and wicketkeeper-batter Abishek Porel staged a fightback, beginning before lunch and very nearly lasting till tea. Their 101-run stand for the seventh wicket started with caution early on, but as the pitch flattened out, both batters found scoring easier. After lunch, they found boundaries on both sides of the wicket to make rapid progress.
The stand could have been broken had Saurashtra taken a DRS review for an lbw shout when Shahbaz was on 38. But having burned two reviews already, they were cautious. Shahbaz went on to score 69, out bat-pad to short leg while trying to nudge a Dharmendrasinh Jadeja delivery. That wicket brought in tea, and with Bengal having worked their way up to 166 for 7, there was hope that they could breach 200.
However, that wasn't to be as Saurashtra ran through the lower order inside 15 minutes after tea. Akash Deep became Jadeja's second victim, Porel was out for 50 to Jani, and Mukesh Kumar fell to Unadkat.
Saurashtra's reply began with opener Harvik Desai (38*) counterattacking. He raced to 29 off 28 balls, even as his opening partner Jai Gohil fell cheaply to Akash. Vishvaraj Jadeja, the No. 3, also played positive shots to score 25 with five boundaries, before falling to Mukesh.
But those quick runs had lifted Saurashtra to 73 for 2 by then. The nightwatcher Sakariya, the pick of the Saurashtra bowlers in the morning with 3 for 33, survived nine deliveries in Desai's company, and when bad light stopped play, the visitors left the field much happier than their counterparts, only 93 runs away from Bengal's first-innings total.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx