Bengal had an unlikely hero in Subhomoy Das. He rescued the hosts with a delightful 95 in their Group A Ranji Trophy opener against two-time defending champions Rajasthan, in Kolkata.
Das was not in the team's scheme of things as he did not face a single ball at the nets on the eve of the match. But, after being forced to open, he grabbed the chance with both hands and scored a fine 95 from 154 balls.
At stumps on the first day, Bengal were 187 for 4 after 59 overs, after bad light stopped play twice.
- Also read:
- Ranji Trophy action: Day 1
- Tendulkar, Rahane tons put Mumbai on top vs Railways
- Imtiaz Ahmed bags five wkts as Sehwag, Gambhir flop
- Harbhajan goes wicketless; Amitoze, Gony share six
- Das's 95 steers Bengal to 187 for 4
- Andhra have Services reeling on rain-curtailed day
- Vidarbha dismiss Haryana for 55; Umesh Yadav grabs five
Rajasthan ended on a high, having picked two important wickets -- those of Das and Manoj Tiwary (42) -- in the last four overs of the day.
Bengal will now have to start afresh with Wriddhiman Saha and Anustup Majumdar at the crease on six and nine respectively.
In the absence of their regular openers Parthasarathi Bhattacharjee and Rohan Banerjee -- both being injured on the eve of the match -- middle-order batsman Das was forced to come upfront.
The 30-year-old proved a point after Bengal lost rookie Jayojit Basu (6) early at the team's score of six in the third over.
Das missed the triple figure mark by just five runs, but his partnerships of 67 with Writam Porel and 95 with skipper Manoj Tiwary took Bengal to safety after they were put into bat.
He took full advantage of an ordinary Rajasthan attack as the pitch eased out after the early morning help with the Eden strip once again proving to be a batsman's paradise.
The Bengal opener was not afraid to step out as he dispatched off-spinner Madhur Khatri over long-off during his partnership with left-hander Porel.
After the departure of a tentative Porel, who edged one behind the stumps, Das grew in confidence and hit some elegant drives as he along with skipper Tiwary dominated the listless Rajasthan attack.
Das completed his half century with an elegant straight drive to Pankaj Singh and had a chanceless stay at the crease barring one stray pull shot which fell short at mid off when he was on 64.
When everything was going Bengal's way, a freak shot by Tiwary, who stepped out to Khatri only find Ashok Menaria at widish mid-wicket, gave some reason for smiles in the visitors' camp.
Tea was taken half an hour early after bad light stopped the play when Bengal were 174 for three with Das six runs shy of his fourth first-class century.
Das, however, returned heartbroken, missing the personal milestone by five runs in what may have been a lapse in concentration as he was adjudged LBW, though the ball seemed to be going down the leg side.
"Yes, I did not bat at the nets yesterday as I was not expecting to be in the XI ... But I am happy to have played a role, though a bit disappointed having missed a century," Das said.
Pacer Singh (3-30) was Rajasthan's most successful bowler, while off-spinner Khatri took one wickets for 23 runs.