Bengal’s second innings was a significant improvement on its first dig, but a spirited 348 fell far short of the score required to challenge Maharashtra in their Ranji trophy semifinals, as the latter eased into the title round with a 10-wicket victory at the Holkar stadium here on Monday.

Wriddiman Saha’s application and aggression saw him remain unbeaten on a fighting 108 as Bengal dodged the absolute humiliation of an innings defeat setting Maharashtra a target of eight runs. The openers knocked off the runs in quick time, taking Maharashtra into the final for the first time since 1992-93.

Seamers Samad Fallah (three for 110), Anupam Sanklecha (three for 84) and Dominic Muthuswamy (three for 80) once again delivered on demand, despite coming in for treatment from Saha (15x4, 2x6) towards the end.

The track played true on day three, with chilly conditions favouring swing. Sanklecha struck the morning’s first blow trapping Abhimanyu Easwaran leg-before in the 12th over.

He then pitched short to Arindam Das (34) who rose to the bait, and Akshay Darekar held a low catch low at mid-wicket.

Muthuswamy’s dismissal of Laxmi Ratan Shukla was spectacular. The Bengal skipper, who stretched forward to defend the ball which was pitched on off-stump, saw it sneak through the gate to dislodge the stumps.

Sanklecha then startled Sandipan Das with bounce. The batsmen got into position to block and by the time he realised a change of footwork was in order to tackle the snorker, the ball had brushed the bat and settled into Rohit Motwani’s gloves.

Bowling off a short, bustling run-up, Fallah — who had 10 wickets for the match — had earlier claimed his Ranji wicket No. 200 in style; the ball moved away off the pitch just enough to catch Sudip Chatterjee’s edge. Meanwhile, Saha showed fight, and in the company of tailenders Sourav Sarkar (35 off 22 balls), Ashoke Dinda (21 off 20 balls) and Shib Shankar Paul (13 off 15 balls), ensured that Maharashtra — whose intensity seemed to have dropped off before the task was complete — would have to bat again.

The scores:

Bengal — 1st innings: 114.

Maharashtra — 1st innings: 455.

Bengal — 2nd innings: Koushik Ghosh c Khurana b Fallah 9, Arindam Das c Darekar b Sanklecha 34, Abhimanyu Easwaran lbw b Sanklecha 6, Sudip Chatterjee c Motwani b Fallah 49, Wriddhiman Saha (not out) 108, Laxmi Ratan Shukla b Dominic 10, Sandipan Das c Motwani b Sanklecha 12, Saurashish Lahiri lbw b Dominic 18, Sourav Sarkar c Dominic b Fallah 35, Ashoke Dinda c & b Dominic 25, Shib Shankar Paul c Dominic b Darekar 13; Extras (b-14, lb-5, nb-10): 29; Total (in 77.3 overs): 348.

Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-34, 3-86, 4-128, 5-145, 6-163, 7-188, 8-233, 9-295.

Maharashtra bowling: Samad Fallah 27-4-110-3, Anupam Sanklecha 19-3-84-3, Dominic Muthuswamy 20-5-80-3, Harshad Khadiwale 4-0-11-0, Akshay Darekar 7.3-0-44-1.

Maharashtra — 2nd innings: Harshad Khadiwale (not out) 8, Chirag Khurana (not out) 0; Total (for no loss in two overs): 8.

Bengal bowling: Sourav Sarkar 1-0-3-0, Sandipan Das 1-0-5-0.

Keywords: Ranji Trophy

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