Inspired by Samad Fallah’s seven-wicket haul (seven for 58) on an encouraging day for bowlers, the Maharashtra batsmen picked up the baton from the left-arm pacer and muscled in with 34 boundaries to reach 164 for four at stumps on day one of the Ranji Trophy semifinals.

Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla (two for 45) led a minor fightback after his team crashed to 114 all out, an hour into the second session. Shukla sent back Vijay Zol with change of pace and slipped a trademark in-cutter through opener Harshad Khadiwale’s defence.

Ashoke Dinda (two for 45) too chipped in with the wickets of Chirag Khurana (48, 53b, 10x4) and Kedar Jadhav (40, 58b, 8x4), but Maharashtra raced ahead by 50.

Bengal’s batsmen faced a battle for survival in conditions where the ball moved in the air and off the pitch. A tinge of green excited the swing bowlers Fallah and Anupam Sanklecha, both of whom went all out on a chilly morning.

Fallah was almost unplayable and reaped a rich harvest, while new ball partner Sanklecha beat the bat, but had no scalps to show for his classy effort.

Bengal slumped to this season’s lowest total as the innings ended in just 41.4 overs.

Koushik Ghosh faced a pace trial on his Ranji debut. He was beaten by an in-cutter from Fallah, the ball swerving away from the left-hander and finding the edge to Jadhav at first slip. Fallah also trapped Abhimanyu Easwaran and Sudip Chatterjee in front.

Khadiwale chipped in with Wriddhiman Saha’s wicket — the Bengal wicketkeeper was unable to capitalise on a first ball reprieve (Saha was dropped by Zol at forward short-leg off Fallah) and was caught behind. Muthuswamy beat Sandipan Das with sheer pace — the ball speared in and lopped off the bails.

Sanklecha then beat Sourashish Lahiri with swing; the Bengal batsman stretched forward, offered no shot and heard the rattle behind. Shukla was frozen at the crease by a Fallah special.

The scores:

Bengal — 1st innings: Koushik Ghosh c Jadhav b Fallah 1, Arindam Das b Fallah 37, Abhimanyu Easwaran lbw b Fallah 11, Sudip Chatterjee lbw b Fallah 0, Wriddhiman Saha c Motwani b Khadiwale 29, Laxmi Ratan Shukla c Jadhav b Fallah 14, Sandipan Das b Muthuswamy 2, Saurashish Lahiri b Sanklecha 4, Sourav Sarkar c Darekar b Fallah 8, Ashoke Dinda (not out) 0, Shib Shankar Paul b Fallah 0; Extras (lb-2, nb-1, penalty runs-5): 8; Total (in 41.4 overs): 114.

Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-21, 3-21, 4-65, 5-83, 6-94, 7-102, 8-110, 9-114.

Maharashtra bowling: Samad Fallah 16.4-3-58-7, Anupam Sanklecha 12-5-21-1, Dominic Muthuswamy 10-4-18-1, Harshad Khadiwale 3-0-10-1.

Maharashtra — 1st innings: Harshad Khadiwale b Shukla 28, Chirag Khurana c Saha b Dinda 48, Vijay Zol lbw b Shukla 1, Kedar Jadhav c & b Dinda 40, Ankit Bawne (batting) 37, Rohit Motwani (batting) 8; Extras (nb-2): 2; Total (for four wkts. in 44 overs): 164.

Fall of wickets: 1-78, 2-78, 3-91, 4-141.

Bengal bowling: Ashoke Dinda 12-4-45-2, Sourav Sarkar 10-2-44-0, Laxmi Ratan Shukla 12-1-45-2, Shib Shankar Paul 9-4-23-0, Saurashish Lahiri 1-0-7-0.

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