Kalyani (WB): Opener Abhimanyu Easwaran stood tall amidst ruins with a classy 88 with as many as 20 wickets fell on the opening day of Bengal's penultimate Ranji Trophy group league encounter against Odisha, here today.
The frail looking right-hander scored 88 runs in Bengal's meagre first innings score of 142 in 47.3 overs on a wicket which was distinctly under-prepared.
It showed when Odisha were bundled out for 107 in 29 overs with young off-spinner Aamir Gani picking up a career best 6 for 34. He was well supported by left-arm spin duo of Pragyan Ojha (2/25) and debutant Anurag Tiwary (2/26).
With a small but important first innings lead of 35 runs, Bengal openers Easwaran (20 batting) and Sayan Sekhar Mondal (3 batting) added 23 runs in 9 overs in the second essay. The overall lead swelled to 58 runs with the match unlikely to last even three full days.
The highlight of the day certainly was young Easwaran, who has scored a total of 108 runs on a single day on a track where the entire Odisha team managed a run less.
In his first innings, he nearly carried his bat through for the 156-ball effort that had 10 boundaries and a six. He was the last man out after adding an invaluable 46 runs for the final wicket with debutant Anurag (2).
Credit should be given to No 11 batsman Anurag for hanging in there for as long as 48 minutes. After Abhimanyu's 88, the next highest score for Bengal was Shreevats Goswami's 17 followed by Gani's 15.
"The pitch was difficult to bat on. The key is to play your shots as late as possible and you have to show a lot of resolve," Abhimanyu said after his three-hour 22 minute stint at the crease, which is also Bengal's first innings span.
When captain Manoj Tiwary decided to bat on a cracked surface at the Bengal Academy Ground, where the first ever first-class match was being played, it seemed like the move had backfired with half of the team back in hut for 56.
But it was Easwaran, who carried on with a lot of grit as he showed how to play the left-arm spinner Dhiraj Singh (5/58) with assured feet movement and positive attitude.
When Odisha came into bat, seasoned Ojha struck the first blow dismissing rival captain Natraj Behera (4) caught by skipper Tiwary. Gobinda Poddar was castled by Gani and fellow opener Ranjit Singh was caught behind off Ojha.
The wickets fell at regular intervals and buoyed by a vociferous home crowd at this district town in Nadia, Bengal clawed their way back into the match, which now looks in their grasp.
Brief Scores: Bengal 142 all out; 47.3 overs (Abhimanyu Easwaran 88; Dhiraj Singh 5/58, Suryakant Pradhan 3/15) and 23 for no loss; 9 overs (Abhimanyu Easwaran 20 batting).
Odisha 107 in 29 overs (Aamir Gani 6/34, Pragyan Ojha 2/25, Anurag Tiwary 2/26). Match to continue.