Kolkata: Bengal had an unlikely hero in Subhomoy Das who rescued the hosts with a delightful 95 in their Group A Ranji Trophy opener against two-time defending champions Rajasthan here on Friday.
Das was not in the team`s scheme of things as he did not face a single ball at the nets on the eve of the match. But after being forced to open, he grabbed the chance with both hands as he scored a fine 95 from 154 balls (15x4, 1x6).
At stumps on the first day, Bengal were 187 for four after 59 overs with bad light stopping the play twice.
Rajasthan ended on a high having picked two important wickets -- that of Das and Manoj Tiwary (42 from 70 balls, 8x4) -- in the last four overs of the day.
Bengal will now have to start afresh with Wriddhiman Saha and Anustup Majumdar at the crease on six and nine respectively.
In the absence of their regular openers Parthasarathi Bhattacharjee and Rohan Banerjee -- both being injured on the eve of the match -- middle-order batsman Das was forced to come upfront.
The 30-year-old proved a point after Bengal lost rookie Jayojit Basu (6) early at team score of six in the third over.
Das missed the triple figure by just five runs but his partnerships of 67 with Writam Porel and 95 with skipper Manoj Tiwary took Bengal to safety after they were put into bat.
Das took full advantage of an ordinary Rajasthan attack as the pitch eased out after the early morning help with the Eden strip once again proving to be a batsman`s paradise.
The Bengal opener was not afraid to step out as he dispatched off-spinner Madhur Khatri over long off during his partnership with left-hander Porel.
After the departure of a tentative Porel, who edged one behind the stumps, Das grew in confidence and hit some elegant drives as he along with skipper Tiwary dominated the listless Rajasthan attack.
Das completed his half century with an elegant straight drive to Pankaj Singh and had a chanceless stay at the crease barring one stray pull shot which fell short at mid off when he was on 64.
At a time when everything was going on Bengal`s way, a freak shot by Tiwary, who stepped out to Khatri but only to bring an end to find Ashok Menaria at widish midwicket, gave some reasons to smile in the visitors` camp.
Tea was taken half an hour early after bad light stopped the play when Bengal were 174 for three with Das six runs shy of his fourth first-class century.
Das, however, returned a heartbroken man missing the personal milestone by just five runs in what may be a lapse of concentration as he was adjudged LBW though the ball seemed to be going down the leg.
"Yes, I did not bat at the nets yesterday as I was not expecting to be in the XI ... But I am happy to have played a role, though a bit disappointed having missed a century," Das said.
Pacer Singh (3/30) was Rajasthan`s most successful bowler while off-spinner Khatri took one wickets for 23 runs.