Bengal, thanks to Wriddhiman Saha (75 batting) and Laxmi Ratan Shukla (62), managed to reach 280 for seven at close, as Punjab failed to capitalise on the early advantage, on the first day of their Ranji Trophy encounter at the PCA Stadium here.
Punjab struck early on, but ran into Shukla and Saha, batsmen of contrasting styles but strikingly similar in temperament.
It was the kind of pitch that demanded discipline and the pair of Saha and Shukla showed that Bengal had the potential to grind out the Punjab attack. This was after trusted performers like Manoj Tiwary and Anustup Majumder failed to click as Bengal slid in the first session.
Opener Joyojit Basu fell to a leg-side catch, while his partner Subhomoy Das flattered to deceive. Having shown patience in the initial stages of his innings,
Das paid for his complacency when Amitoze Singh broke through his defence. Punjab sensed its chance and concentrated on stifling the flow of runs. The move paid off.
Tiwary, Writam Porel and Majumder’s indiscretion cost them their wickets after they looked good to spend a longer time in the middle. At 118 for five, Bengal was in trouble before Saha and Shukla revived the innings.
Even as the seamers sprayed the ball and the spinners lost control, Punjab ultimately broke the 124-run stand between Saha and Shukla through a good delivery from Rahul Sharma.
The leg-spinner had bowled short and full tosses before that, but produced a ball that kicked and surprised Shukla.
Shukla indulged, but not Saha. It was obvious that the latter had made up his mind to play the waiting game.
Shukla created scoring avenues even as Saha remained patient, picking the right deliveries to punish.
Shukla, who faced 105 balls and hit 10 fours, looked sound during his stay in the middle. Saha was hardly hustled by the bowlers and stood out for his near-flawless show.
He has batted 155 balls thus far and hit nine fours and a six.
For Punjab, Manpreet Grewal (Gony) was the pick of the bowlers with his sustained line and was rewarded with two wickets.
Bengal — 1st innings: Jayojit Basu c U. Kaul b Grewal 7, Subhomoy Das b Amitoze 28, Writam Porel c U. Kaul b S. Kaul 32, Manoj Tiwary c Mandeep Singh b Grewal 20, Anustup Majumder b Sandeep 22, Wriddhiman Saha (batting) 75, Laxmi Ratan Shukla c Mandeep Singh b Rahul 62, Arnab Nandi c U. Kaul b Sandeep 22, Veer Pratap Singh (batting) 0; Extras (b-6, lb-5, w-1): 12; Total (for seven wkts. in 90 overs): 280.
Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-51, 3-80, 4-114, 5-118, 6-242, 7-275.
Punjab bowling: Grewal 16-5-35-2, Sandeep 21-6-50-2, S. Kaul 21-4-66-1, Amitoze 17-4-45-1, Rahul 11-1-50-1, Bipul 3-0-17-0, Goel 1-0-6-0.