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Ranji Trophy: Bengal close to semifinal berth

The Times of India logo The Times of India 03-02-2023 Archiman Bhaduri
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KOLKATA: Now, it's just a matter of time before Bengal make their third straight Ranji Trophy semifinals. At stumps on Day 3, Jharkhand were reeling at 162 for seven in their second innings, having managed to gain a slender seven-run lead after Bengal were bowled out for 328 runs in the morning at the Eden Gardens here on Thursday.

Shahbaz Ahmed (81, 2/38), who did not have any role to play on the first two days, hogged the limelight — first with the bat and then with the ball — to put Bengal on brink of victory. The way Bengal bowlers dominated, at one stage it looked like the match would be over inside three days. It got stretched to the fourth day mainly because of some sloppy Bengal fielding and resilient batting by Aryaman Sen (64).

Shahbaz began the day playing some gusty shots to extend Bengal's lead. However, loss of wickets at regular intervals prevented Bengal from establishing a huge lead as they folded up just before the lunch break.

A lead of 155 runs was not much, but Bengal made early inroads thanks to two quick strikes by Akashdeep. Coming in as first-change bowler, Akash Ghatak struck in his second over when Pankaj Kumar inside-edged one on to his stumps. Jharkhand were in dire straits when Ghatak trapped Kumar Kushagra in front as the visitors went to tea at 62 for four.

Jharkhand pulled things back a bit in the last session of play with two good partnerships, both involving Aryaman Sen. The opener played out a 71-run fifth-wicket stand with Anukul Roy and then a 52-run sixth-wicket essay with Virat Singh. Shahbaz, who came into the attack in the 24th over, claimed both Roy and Singh.

SCORES: Jharkhand 173 and 162/7 (A Sen 64; A Deep 2/25, A Ghatak 2/19, S Ahmed 2/38) vs Bengal 328 (S Ahmed 81, A Easwaran 77, S Gharami 68; A Kumar 3/89, R Shukla 2/65, S Chakraborty 2/87)

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