Kolkata: Bengal stared at a humiliating defeat on home soil after off-spinner Jalaj Saxena returned with a career-best six wicket haul to put Madhya Pradesh on course for an outright win in the Ranji Trophy Group B league match here today.
On an Eden Gardens strip that had little to inspire the bowlers, Saxena exploited Bengal batsmen`s poor temperament to bundle out the hosts for 263, with a first innings deficit of 168 runs.
Saxena took six for 53 but it was left-arm spinner Ankit Sharma who triggered the Bengal collapse with 3 for 53.
Following on, Bengal were 43 for no loss at stumps on the penultimate day as they still require 125 more to avoid an innings defeat and make Madhya Pradesh bat again.
Resuming at 117/1 with Arindam Das in his overnight score of 70, Bengal needed to show some application and bide time.
But their batsmen`s inability to stay at the crease that has been their major worry for last couple of seasons once again haunted them as they lost their last eight wickets for 68 runs to brighten MP`s hope for a second consecutive outright win against Bengal in the Ranji Trophy.
Sharma gave the first breakthrough in the very second over of the day with a classic leg cutter that rocked Anustup Majumdar`s offstump.
Playing sluggishly, Das completed his ninth firstclass century just before the lunch but only to be dismissed by Sharma.
In fact post-lunch Bengal were in a comfortable position (195/2) to avoid the follow-on but Saxena brought on the collapse as he bettered his 6/106 against New Zealand A earlier in August.
Rating this as his best performance, Saxena said: "It`s more special than the one against New Zealand A (in Vizag) as here the pitch was not at all helping us... I had to earn every wicket."
Das was unbeaten on 19 from 81 balls, while Rohan Banerjee was on 24 having faced an equal number of deliveries as Bengal will now need a miracle to avoid the defeat.
Having already ensured three points by virtue of their first innings lead, Madhya Pradesh will be keen to inflict yet another outright defeat on Bengal.
Madhya Pradesh boast of a fine record against Bengal, having defeated them comprehensively in Indore last season for six points, while in 2011-12 they walked away with three points chasing down 496 in the first innings at JU Saltlke campus.
Madhya Pradesh 1st Innings: 431
Bengal 1st Innings: 263 (Arindam Das 104, Wriddhiman Saha 39; Jalaj Saxena 6/53, Ankit Sharma 3/53).
Bengal 2nd Innings: 43 for no loss.