Ranji Trophy: Virat Singh wages loan battle as Bengal inches close to semis spot

Bengal continued to sink its teeth deeper into Jharkhand and inched closer to securing a semifinal spot with a 551-run lead on day four of the first quarterfinal of the Ranji Trophy at the Just Cricket Academy Ground here on Thursday.

Taking the field after conceding a 475-run first innings lead – as Bengal didn’t enforce the follow-on – Shahbaz Nadeem (three for 18) gave Jharkhand something to cheer about as Bengal took Stumps at 76 for three, with its top three back in the hut.

With the result a foregone conclusion, Virat Singh (113 no, 239b, 15×4, 3×6) was the other silver lining for Jharkhand, as he defined Bengal for two sessions and frustrated it further with a 57-run partnership for the tenth wicket with Ashish Kumar – the second-highest of the innings.

Nadeem scalped two wickets in 56 overs in the first innings but found assistance off the pitch in the second to take three in 11. He foxed openers Abhimanya Easwaran and Abhishek Raman with his turn before casting young Sudip Kumar Gharami with the arm-ball to take his wickets tally for the season to 23 – only behind Shams Mulani’s 37. With Anustup Majumdar and Manoj Tiwary looking to prevent further damage and Nadeem continuing to threaten, the chatter around the batters from the close-in fielders finally returned for Jharkhand.

Facing a tall task at the start of the day’s play, with Jharkhand behind by 634 runs with five wickets in hand, Virat was watchful, resisting from poking outside off and evading the short balls. Meanwhile, Sayan Mondal (four for 71) and Shahbaz Ahmed (four for 51) sent back Anukul Roy and Shahbaz Nadeem in the first session to continue Jharkhand’s slide.

With Rahul Shukla and Sushant Mishra falling in quick succession after lunch, Virat, his hundred approaching, decided to take the attack to the bowlers. He stepped out to cream a drive through the covers before charging down the pitch again next ball and slashing a six over point to move into the 80s. He then swept Shahbaz to move into the nineties before bringing up his sixth first-class century with a flick for two.

No.11 Ashish played a valiant hand and braved a barrage of short deliveries – prompting him to wear an elbow guard halfway into Ishan Porel’s over – to enable Virat’s hundred. Ashish fended off a vicious bouncer next ball before leaning into a drive through covers for four as Porel over-pitched.

Akash Deep uprooted Ashish’s middle-stump to cut short the rearguard and force Jharkhand back onto the field – for the eighth session inside four days.

The scores:

Bengal – 1st innings: Abhishek Raman st. Kumar Kushagra b Anukul Roy 61, Abhimanyu Easwaran lbw b Sushant Mishra 65, Sudip Kumar Gharami c Kumar Kushagra b Rahul Shukla 186, Anustup Majumdar c sub (Bal Krishna) b Shahbaz Nadeem 117, Manoj Tiwary c Utkarsh Singh b Sushant Mishra 73, Abishek Porel c Kumar Kushagra b Sushant Mishra 68, Shahbaz Ahmed c Kumar Kushagra b Shahbaz Nadeem 78, Sayan Mondal (not out) 53, Akash Deep (not out) 53; Extras (b 1, lb 9, nb 6, w 3) 19.

Total: (for seven wkts. in 218.4 overs) 773 declared.

Fall of wickets: 1-132, 2-375, 3-421, 4-455, 5-564, 6-613, 7-714.

Jharkhand bowling: Rahul Shukla 30-3-118-1, Ashish Kumar 41-9-127-0, Sushant Mishra 30-2-140-3, Shahbaz Nadeem 56-9-175-2, Anukul Roy 38.4-4-119 -1, Utkarsh Singh 23-2-84-0.

Jharkhand – 1st innings: Kumar Deobrat c Abishek Porel b Sayan Mondal 11, Nazim Siddiqui c Abhishek Raman b Sayan Mondal 53, Utkarsh Singh c sub (Writtick Chatterjee) b Sayan Mondal 5, Saurabh Tiwary c sub (Writtick Chatterjee) b Shahbaz Ahmed 33 , Virat Singh (not out) 113, Kumar Kushagra c Abishek Porel b Shahbaz Ahmed 2, Anukul Roy c Sudip Kumar Gharami b Sayan Mondal 4, Shahbaz Nadeem c Abhishek Raman b Shahbaz Ahmed 25, Rahul Shukla c Anustup Majumdar b Shahbaz Ahmed 5, Sushant Mishra run out (Ishan Porel) 9, Ashish Kumar b Akash Deep 14; Extras (b 6, lb 13, nb 4, w 1) 24.

Total: (all out in 96 overs) 298.

Fall of wickets: 1-72, 2-79, 3-88, 4-134, 5-138, 6-157, 7-202, 8-221, 9-241, 10-298.

Bengal bowling: Ishan Porel 16-5-52-0, Mukesh Kumar 19-10-41-0, Akash Deep 19-2-64-1, Sayan Mondal 21-5-71-4, Shahbaz Ahmed 21-7-51 -4.

Bengal – 2nd innings: Abhishek Raman c Nazim Siddiqui b Shahbaz Nadeem 22, Abhimanyu Easwaran c Anukul Roy b Shahbaz Nadeem 13, Sudip Kumar Gharami b Shahbaz Nadeem 5, Anustup Majumdar (batting) 22, Manoj Tiwary (batting) 12; Extras (lb 2) 2.

Total: (for three wkts. in 31 overs) 76.

Fall of wickets: 1-24, 2-39, 3-52.

Jharkhand bowling: Ashish Kumar 6-2-13-0, Rahul Shukla 4-1-8-0, Shahbaz Nadeem 11-2-18-3, Sushant Mishra 7-2-25-0, Anukul Roy 3-0-10 -0.

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