Kolkata: Bengal bowlers once again frittered away the advantage as Dinesh Karthik's swift counterattacking knock saw Tamil Nadu finish first day's play at 208 for five in a Ranji Trophy cricket match here today.
Pace spearhead Ashok Dinda (3/68) again produced a lion-hearted effort but lacked support from fellow pacers Sourav Sarkar (1/48) and rookie Pritam Chakraborty (0/33).
After Laxmi Ratan Shukla opted to field, Tamil Nadu were reduced to 91 for four, the visitors rode on Karthik's 92 off 131 balls which had 13 hits to the fence.
By the time, he missed out on a well-deserved century by eight runs edging one from Dinda to Shreevats Goswami behind the stumps, he had somewhat scripted a recovery act with a 105-run fifth wicket stand with Ramaswamy Prasanna (35 batting).
At stumps, Rajagopal Sathish (10 batting) was at the crease with Prasanna on a curtailed day with only 66 overs possible due to wet outfield.
"We would have loved to have Karthik unbeaten at the crease but it's still anybody's game. The first session will be crucial tomorrow," Tamil Nadu opener Abhinav Mukund told reporters.
For the third successive time, Bengal skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla won the toss and opted to field but the team was severely let down by their frail bowling line-up which was virtually reduced to one-man attack in Dinda.
The Bengal speedster castled opener K Bharath Shankar (18) and No 3 Baba Aparajith (26) early on and went on to remove the 'danger man' Karthik to let Bengal finish the opening day with a glint of optimism.
Karthik did all the hard work and brought the team out of the rut in the most effective partnership with Prasanna but a lapse in concentration cost him a second first-class century in three matches.
The former India wicketkeeper built his innings brick by brick with a patient half-century in 74 balls that came immediately after the tea session.
Having completed his 32nd first-class half-century, Karthik raced to the 90s with some elegant drives all around the park before he was foxed by a Dinda's pace and swing to take an outside edge.
Skipper Prasanna extended a fine support to Karthik by rotating strikes and taking clever singles as Bengal bowlers looked clueless before Dinda gave the breakthrough.
Earlier in the morning, Bengal's fielding once again was a letdown as they missed two easy run-out chances with Mukund at the receiving end.
Their leading run-getter, Mukund however could not convert his start as he was bowled by Bengal skipper Shukla in the post-lunch session.
It was a fruitful second session for Bengal who took three wickets for 22 runs before Karthik and Prasanna rebuilt the innings.
Earlier, Bengal made two changes to their lineup bringing in Sourav Sarkar and Saurasish Lahiri in place of Subhojit Banerjee and Veerpratap Singh.
With a green top on offer, Tamil Nadu had to change their spin bowling strategry as they brought in senior pro Laxmipathy Balaji, M Mohammed and debutant T Natarajan in place of M Rangarajan, Rahil Shah and U Sushil.
Brief Scores: Tamil Nadu 208/5 in 66 overs (Dinesh Karthik 92, R Prasanna 35 batting; Ashok Dinda 3/68) vs Bengal. Match to continue.