Kolkata: A magnificent effort by Manoj Tiwary kept Bengal in hunt for three points as the home team finished third day`s play at 358 for eight in reply to Delhi`s first innings score of 392 in an Elite Group B match of the Ranji Trophy at the Eden Gardens, on Thursday.
Bengal still need 35 runs to ensure three points and it can only be possible if the India international who is now batting on 163 is supported by debutant Veer Pratap Singh (batting 0) and India discard Ashok Dinda who will come last.
Fresh from his maiden international century, Tiwary today completed a hat-trick of tons this season and four centuries in four matches (if one includes the ODI against West Indies).
This was the talented Bengal batsman`s 16th century in first-class cricket and he also completed 4000 runs in longer format when he reached an individual score of 43.
Even if Bengal fail to get three points, Tiwary`s battle will be lauded by one and all for the manner he batted the last two hours with No 9 and No 10 batsmen.
With a 6-3 off-side field set and the Awanas and Sangwans trying to even prevent a single, Tiwary ensured that he didn`t exposed tail-ender Iresh Saxena (12, 51 balls, 2x4) too much as he time and again took a single off the fifth ball.
Only if Bengal`s top-order had shown enough gumption to atleast play second fiddle to Tiwary who stood tall amidst ruin during his seven and half hour vigil at the wicket. He hit 22 boundaries in his 321-ball knock.
Skipper Sourav Ganguly (50, 44 balls, 10x4) played a T20 like cameo when one expected him to stick around the youngster. Ganguly effortlessly pulled Pradeep Sangwan for consecutive boundaries and then was snapped by Yogesh Nagar at point trying to for yet another expansive drive.
The former India captain would have been back when on 19, Shikhar Dhawan dropped a simple catch at slips off Parvinder Awana`s bowling.
With former Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla (31, 88 balls, 5x4), Tiwary added 88 runs for the sixth wicket. Shukla was seen curbing his impetuousity to go for big shots as he played second fiddle to perfection. However there was a lapse in concentration as Shukla dismissed off Awana`s bowling caught by Unmukt Chand.
Comebackman Subhamoy Das, who came in at No 8 as Shami Ahmed was sent in as the night-watchman yesterday played beautifully for his 36 which had six well-timed boundaries.
At the stroke of tea, Sangwan produced a yorker to castle Subhamoy as Bengal went into tea at 316 for seven. Then it was all about Tiwary fighting a lonely battle against Delhi`s pace-trio of Sangwan, Awana and Kuldeep Rawat.
Brief scores: Delhi 392 v Bengal 358/8 (Manoj Tiwary 163 batting, Sourav Ganguly 50; Pradeep Sangwan 4/95).