On his way back to the pavilion, Manoj Tiwary was applauded even by one of Punjab’s substitutes. The veteran’s knock of 65 was one of the main reasons for Bengal making a comeback into the crucial Ranji Trophy clash.
His 107-run fourth-wicket partnership with all-rounder Arnab Nandi (51) helped Bengal take an overall lead of 186 runs with one wicket in hand in their second innings. On a day when 16 wickets fell on a turning track, Tiwary’s knock could have put Bengal on the road to the quarterfinals.
Tiwary, who scored a triple hundred against Hyderabad last month, had played a similar innings of 51 against Kerala on a turning track at Thumba. But the Bengal batsman said that Thursday’s knock was more challenging.
“We have played two matches on spinning tracks this season but this pitch was more challenging. I knew that the ball would turn and also stay straight on this kind of wicket. So I decided not to commit to the shot before judging the length and flight. I stepped out and also employed the sweep, which helped me play with the bowlers’ mind,” said Tiwary. Earlier in the day, the hosts lost five wickets in the first 25 minutes of the day before Anmol Malhotra’s gutsy 44 runs helped Punjab gain a 13-run first innings lead. Tiwary, who joined Nandi with the score being 21 for 3, raced to 31 off 38 balls while Nandi played with patience.
But once the two departed, Bengal lost five wickets in 12.5 overs with Krishan Alang returning figures of 5 for 53. It was the maiden five-wicket haul for the bowler playing only his second match.
“I told Nandi that we have to avoid what happened in the first innings, where we lost three wickets in one over. With the wicket drying up a little in the second session, we wanted to put pressure on the Punjab bowlers with singles and twos. Nandi was promoted in the batting order as he has shown good defence,” added Tiwary.
Earlier in the day, Bengal spinner Shahbaz Ahmed took a seven-wicket haul, including the coveted wicket of Punjab skipper Mandeep Singh in the opening session. Bengal coach Arun Lal believes that bowling session by session on the third day will be the key for his team to win the match.
“We would have been happier if we would have taken the first innings’ lead of 13 runs instead of Punjab as they recovered from 105 for 8 to 151. But all credit to Shahbaz, who helped us to be in that position. We are lucky that our frontline spinners are also very good batsman and Nandi showed that in the partnership with Manoj. Manoj showed today why he is among the best players of spin in the country. He can hit six balls of any spinner for six sixes but displayed patience.”
Punjab coach Munish Bali believes that his team can still qualify for the knockouts. “We could have batted better in the morning but lost too many wickets in the first 20 minutes. The wicket settled a bit today and it was good to play in the afternoon. The first half will be important tomorrow and not giving away wickets when there will be a bit of moisture in the wicket will help our chase,” he said.
Brief scores: Bengal 138 and 199 for 9 in 66 overs (Manoj Tiwary 65, Arnab Nandi 51; Krishan Alang 5/53) vs Punjab 151 all out in 56.5 overs (Rohan Marwaha 48, Anmol Malhotra 44; Shahbaz 7/57, Akash Deep 3/30).
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