Rajkot: Manoj Tiwary's belligerent 101-ball 130 followed by seamer Veer Pratap Singh's six-wicket haul enabled Bengal to beat a spirited Vidarbha by 17 runs and enter the semi-finals of the National One Day Championship for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, here on Thursday.
Put into bat, Bengal scored a challenging 318 for five in 50 overs with Manoj smashing his way to an innings that included four boundaries and nine towering sixes. The knock will certainly help him remain in India contention as his performance was keenly watched by national selector Vikram Rathour.
In reply, Vidarbha failed to cross the line despite twin centuries from left-handed opener Faiz Fazal (105) and India discard Subramanium Badrinath's 100, as they managed 301 for eight in 50 overs.
"Normally, we play on pitches back home where scoring runs isn't that easy. Therefore, when you get an opportunity on a batting beauty like this, you want to make the most of it," Manoj said after the match.
Bengal's dominance at national level in the 50-over format was once again established as they have now made it to the semi-finals in six of the last eight editions (including the current one). Out of the six, they have been in four finals winning the 2012 edition.
Young medium-pacer Veer recorded career-best figures of 6 for 51, providing his team with crucial breakthroughs at junctures when it looked like the opposition was running away with the game.
His clever change-ups and the effective slower deliveries in batting Powerplay brought Bengal back in the match after Vidarbha were in cruise mode at 211 for two. Earlier, it was Manoj who carried the bulk of the responsibility on his shoulders. He did get support from the in-form left-hander Shreevats Goswami (84, 113 balls), who also hit nine boundaries. The duo added 142 runs for the second wicket.
Bengal's no 1 batsman was severe on the spin troika - offies Akshay Wakhare, Badinath and left-arm spinner Ravi Jangid, repeatedly carting them over long-on and long-off.
The moment the spinners flighted or dropped it short, Manoj was quick to reach to the pitch of the ball and deposited them over the ropes. There were times where he hadn't properly reached to the pitch but the punch was good enough to carry it for maximum. He was affected by cramps when he reached 50 but manfully carried on to get to his highest List A score.
Towards the end, it was the unheralded Subhajit Banerjee (30, 5x4), who hit some audacious shots to take Bengal past the 300-run mark. While chasing, former Railways opener Fazal (105, 111 balls) paced his innings well hitting nine fours and two sixes. Along with Badrinath, he added 113 runs for the third wicket before disaster struck during mandatory Powerplays.
Veer bowled a perfect length as Fazal was out trying a slog. Skipper Shalabh Srivastava (0) was out mistiming a hook shot straight down short fine leg's throat. Badri still carried on with Urvesh Patel (33) as they added 57 runs for the sixth wicket before Veer again removed Patel to put the brakes.
Badri's valiant effort went in vain as he was out in the last over having struck 13 fours in his 94-ball knock.
Bengal 318/5 in 50 overs (Manoj Tiwary 130, Shreevats Goswami 84, Subhajit Banerjee 30)
Vidarbha 301/8 in 50 overs (S Badrinath 100, Faiz Fazal 105, Veer Pratap Singh 6/51).