Kolkata: Three years after he crushed Bengal’s Ranji Trophy hopes in the final, Arpit Vasavada once again came to haunt them at the same stage again, standing tall with an unbeaten 81 to take Saurashtra closer to their second title, here Friday.
The Saurashtra vice-captain, whose 106 handed them a match-winning first innings lead in the 2020 final in Rajkot, once again got under the skin of Bengal, sharing two key partnerships with Sheldon Jackson (59) and Chirag Jani (57 not out).
The duo of Vasavada and Jani, who are unbroken in a 113-run partnership, stepped up the run-rate in the post-tea session, extending their first innings lead to 143.
Saurashtra were 317 for 5 at close on day two in reply to Bengal’s 174 all out.
Fresh from his match-winning double century against Karnataka in the semifinal, Vasavada continued from where he left off and stood tall in his unbeaten knock that came off 155 balls. He slammed 11 boundaries.
Jani also looked at ease hitting 10 boundaries as the duo dictated terms especially in the final session.
Their pace-heavy attack turning out to be a big letdown, Bengal took 46 minutes to get the first breakthrough in the morning session.
By then, overnight batter Harvik Desai (50) got to his 12th half-century in a dogged partnership with night-watchman Chetan Sakariya who saw off the first hour with resolute eight off 45 balls.
Mukesh Kumar and Ishan Porel dismissed Desai and Sakariya in addition of just eight runs but from thereon the left-handed Vasavada seized control with Jackson in a 95-run partnership that set the tone and took their score past Bengal’s 174.
Veteran Jackson gifted his wicket away after scoring his 35th fifty. He mistimed his pull off Ishan Porel to be holed out at fine leg.
But Jani came to pile on Bengal’s misery with his entertaining strokeplay in their century-plus stand that virtually sealed their second Ranji triumph.
Making full use of a reprieve on 26 when Shahbaz Ahmed dropped a sitter, Jani raced to his 13th first-class half-century in 72 balls.
After the play resumed post-tea break which was extended by 20 minutes because of bad light, Jani stepped on the gas as he drove, pulled and also straight-drove one with elegance.
The conditions on day two were hazy and gloomy at Eden Gardens and reflected in the home team’s camp as their pace-heavy attack failed to seize control in the first hour’s play.
Akash Deep erred in line and bowled mostly on fifth and sixth stump, while star pacer Mukesh was negated well by a resolute batting by the overnight duo of wicketkeeper-batter Desai and Sakariya.
Sakariya took some blows on his body but held firm to ward off the Bengal pace attack before the conditions eased up.
Unlike day one, the pitch looked brown and there was not much help for pacers, while Akash Deep looked a shadow of his past.
Desai was the first wicket to fall when he failed to read the line as a Mukesh Kumar delivery jagged back in to trap him in front.
Porel looked the pick of the attack and bowled a superb delivery to clip Sakariya’s off stump.
It was a time when Bengal could have made some more inroads with two new batters — Jackson and Vasavada — at crease.
But Akash Deep drifted the ball away to pads, giving freebies. Jackson and Vasavada both got off with elegant cover drives and there was no looking back.
Bengal 174 vs Saurashtra 317/5 in 87 overs (Harvik Desai 50, Sheldon Jackson 59, Arpit Vasavada 81 not out, Chirag Jani 57 not out; Mukesh Kumar 2/83, Ishan Porel 2/72). Saurashtra lead by 143 runs.
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