ALUR (Karnataka): Rajat Patidar hit an unbeaten half-century to put Madhya Pradesh in the driver’s seat against Bengal in their Ranji Trophy semifinal, here on Thursday.
Continuing his dream run, Patidar took the center stage in MP’s second essay with an elegant 63 not out after his side gained a vital 78-run first innings lead.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore batter, who scored one century and two half centuries in the recently-concluded IPL, found himself at home as he slammed 10 boundaries in his 109-ball unbeaten knock to push MP to 163 for two at stumps on day three.
In their quest for first appearance in Ranji final since 1998-99, MP now have an overall lead of 231 runs with skipper Aditya Shrivastava lending Patidar fine support at the other end with a resolute 34 not out from 90 balls.
Coming onto bat after Shubham Sharma (22) retired hurt after being hit on his arm by an Akash Deep delivery just before tea, the MP skipper didn’t look fluent but he hung in there, giving perfect company to Patidar in their unbroken 73-run association.
Patidar, on the other hand, mixed caution with aggression as Bengal bowlers struggled to get breakthroughs and MP slowly tilted the momentum in their favour in the final session of the day.
There was hardly any pressure from the Bengal bowlers on a spread-out field as the duo cleverly collected ones and twos to take pressure off them.
Earlier, resuming the day on 197 for five, veteran Manoj Tiwary (102), who was overnight 84, completed his 29th first class hundred, his second in a row.
He was well-supported by Bengal and RCB all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed (116), who notched up his maiden first-class hundred after resuming at overnight personal score of 72.
The duo formed the backbone, in an otherwise, sloppy batting display by Bengal as eight of their batters failed to get double digits scores.
Skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran (22) was the only other batter to register double digit runs as Bengal were bundled out for 273 in 89.2 overs in reply to MP’s 341.
In reply, MP had a jittery start in their second innings as Mukesh Kumar trapped Yash Dubey lbw with an angled length ball which was sliding down but umpire Vineet Kulkarni thought otherwise, giving the pacer his 100th first-class victim.
Sharma had a lucky escape as he got a reprieve at nine after wicketkeeper Abishek Porel spilled a sitter.
Bengal soon grabbed a second wicket when Porel stumped first-innings centurion Himanshu Mantri (21).
But thereafter, it was Patidar show as he took on the Bengal bowlers with his fluent drives and flicks, adding 40 runs for the third wicket before Sharma retired hurt.
Madhya Pradesh 341 and 163/2 in 63 overs (Rajat Patidar 63 batting, Aditya Shrivastava 34 batting).
Bengal 273 in 89.2 overs (Shahbaz Ahmed 116, Manoj Tiwary 102; Puneet Datey 3/48, Kumar Kartikeya 3/61, Saransh Jain 3/63).