Kolkata: R P Singh took two wickets in a fine display of seam bowling at the fag end of the opening day after Uttar Pradesh recovered from 138/8 to 212 to take an upperhand against a depleted Bengal in their Ranji Trophy group B league on Saturday.
Put into bat, Uttar Pradesh were left reeling at 82/4 at lunch but Prashant Gupta`s 53 put them past century mark before Imtiaz Ahmed (36 from 44 balls; 6x4) and Ali Murtaza (33 from 40 balls; 6x4) counter-attacked in an entertaining 74-ball 60 for the ninth wicket to take them to a fighting total.
Sourav Sarkar was the pick of Bengal bowlers with 4/51, while Ashok Dinda too was impressive, taking 3/75.
In reply, Bengal were left tottering at 26 for two from 10 overs with the former India pacer R P Singh, in his bid to make a comeback, rattling the top order with searing pace and seam movements.
Still 186 runs behind and with eight wickets in hand, it will be interesting to see how the inexperienced Bengal batting line-up rise to the pace challenge against the group B leaders.
With two more matches in hand, UP are almost certain to finish among top three to make the last eight cut.
Bengal, who have one more match left against Tamil Nadu away, are safe from relegation lying on fifth but they have the improbable task of winning two matches to keep their quarterfinals hope alive.
Having included Arindam Das despite a sore back, the senior opener could not open his account and was caught behind in a lazy display to become R P`s first victim.
R P`s second wicket in the penultimate over was a treat to watch with the former pacer, bowling at 135kph, uprooted 18-year-old debutante Ravichandran Easwaran`s middle stump with a sharp incoming delivery.
The rookie Bengal batsman showed a fine temperament leaving the away going deliveries and looked solid in defence but only to be dismissed by a beauty.
The left-arm pacer attacked Abhimanyu from round the stumps, creating a sharp angle and the young Bengal batsman struck two boundaries with delightful on-drives.
R P persisted with that angle bowling wide of the crease to tempt the youngster who failed on one occasion as the ball crashed the gate to uproot the middle stump.
Earlier, the four seamers attack of Dinda, Sarkar, Shib Shankar Paul (2/51) and skipper Shukla (1/34) rattled UP to 138/8 but only to let them off the hook.
It appeared strange why Shukla did not bring in his main off-spinner Saurashish Lahiri.
Shukla had part-time offie Writtick Chatterjee, the second debutante, and medium pacer Sayan Sekhar Mondal at his disposal but the skipper persisted with the four seam attack as the duo of Imtiaz and Murtaza turned it around for them in the later part of the second session.
Uttar Pradesh 1st Innings 212; 70.1 overs (Prashant Gupta 53; Sourav Sarkar 4/51, Ashok Dinda 3/75).
Bengal 1st Innings: 26/2.