Patel, Panchal make Bengal bowlers toil as Gujarat reach 315/2
Kolkata: Gujarat captain Parthiv Patel brought his oodles of experience to maximum utility against a listless Bengal attack as visitors reached a commanding 315 for two at stumps on the penultimate day of their Elite Group Ranji Trophy match at the Eden Gardens.
Patel who is locked in a direct fight for the reserve wicketkeeper`s slot with Bengal`s Wriddhiman Saha did his cause no harm as he hit a patient 143.
He also inspired his opening partner Priyank Panchal who hit a solid 139 in a 284 opening stand that helped them reach 145 runs shy within Bengal`s first innings score of 560.
With eight wickets in hand, Gujarat look firm favourites to get the first innings lead on an unresponsive Eden track which has made the Bengal bowling look even more pedestrian.
Resuming at 10 for no loss, Gujarat openers` job was made easy by Bengal`s experienced new ball duo of Ranadeb Bose and Ashok Dinda who couldn`t trouble the batsmen at all.
Parthiv lived up to his reputation with a chanceless century under pressure and he also ensured that he along with Panchal put the hosts under a bit of pressure at the close of play. This was his 15th in first-class cricket.
The pint-sized Gujarat skipper was at ease taking on military medium stuff from veteran Bose as he was even seen stepping out against him with the wicket faring slower by the day.
Parthiv`s effort was even more praiseworthy considering that he had kept for 172 overs in Bengal innings before batting for more than five hours.
But the 26-year-old `veteran` of 20 Tests and 32 ODIs did not show any sign of fatigue in his innings in which he hit 18 boundaries from 202 balls, something that make Bengal bowlers scurrying for cover.
Unlike the left-handed Patel, right-hander Panchal complemented well as he was a tad aggressive with three sixes and 16 boundaries in his 269-ball innings spanning more than six hours.
The duo showed no signs of pressure as Gujarat were 159 for no loss at lunch and at tea they were 262 for no loss with both completing century by then.
With their seamers proving ineffective, Bengal slow bowlers had a long day with off-spinner Saurashish Lahiri and left-arm spinner Iresh Saxena bowling 48 overs between them.
Even the skipper Manoj Tiwary bowled four overs of legbreaks to take the pressure of their spinners, even as the Gujarat openers stood intact.
It also meant that 39-year-old Sourav Ganguly had a full day on the field and the retired India skipper was seen diving, chasing the ball.
In what it seemed a lapse of concentration, Patel was dismissed by Lahiri when the Gujarat skipper mistimed a short ball to be taken by Partha Sarathi Bhattacharjee at cover region.
Saxena also had some success at last when he scalped the other opener Panchal with Gujarat 305/2 at 86.1 overs, something that brought some relief in the hosts camp.
Rikin Chauhan (12 batting) and Neeraj Patel (6 batting) played out the day, even as Bengal tried all sorts of pressure-building situation.
But with little assistance from the wicket, Gujarat looked firm and in line to cross Bengal`s tall first innings score.
Patel said they were in a favourable position but playing out the first hour tomorrow would be crucial.
"The first-hour will be crucial... and then if we can bat out the whole day, we will take a lead (and three points). But it`s still a long way to go. But with experienced batsmen still to come, we are in a good position," he said.
The Gujarat skipper indirectly criticised the wicket saying, "It is getting slower and slower. There is not much in it for the bowlers and we did not see any turn on this wicket. It would be good to have a sporting wicket for the domestic competitions to bring the best from the youngsters."