Sourav Ganguly drew on all his years of experience, but his colleagues did not show enough stomach for a fight as Bengal conceded a slender 19-run first innings lead against Haryana in an Elite Group match of the Ranji Trophy at Bansi Lal Stadium in Rohtak on Thursday.
Bengal, who were 327 for six at tea, lost four wickets for only 12 runs in the post-tea session and were all out for 339, in reply to Haryana's first innings score of 358.
Haryana were 42 for 1 in the second essay, an overall lead of 61 runs.
A few months shy of his 40th birthday, Ganguly, who is now one of the oldest cricketers in India's domestic circuit, batted for more than four and half hours to score 135 (his 33rd ton in first class cricket) but got little support from the other end.
One player who would like to forget the match in a hurry is Laxmi Ratan Shukla, whose irresponsible shot at a crucial juncture put paid to Bengal's hopes.
Ganguly was the ninth batsman to get out when he tried to clear leggie Yuzvendra Chahal only to be caught by Abhimanyu Khode at mid-on.
It was a sweet revenge for Chahal, as Ganguly had lifted him for a straight six over long-on apart from hitting 20 boundaries.
Starting the day at 113 for 2, veteran opener Arindam Das (74) hit a boundary before he was castled by seamer Ashish Hooda.
Young Writam Porel (16) nicked one from India colts seamer Harshal Patel to wicket-keeper Nitin Saini.
Wriddhiman joined Ganguly for a 119-run fifth wicket partnership in which the former India captain was the dominant partner. He found the gaps with ease as Wriddhiman played the second fiddle but never looked comfortable in the middle.
Although he has sealed the second wicketkeeper's berth, Wriddhiman's batting at first-class level leaves a lot to be desired. His footwork is totally circumspect whenever the ball swings a bit more and that precisely has been the reason he hasn't singlehandedly won a match for Bengal. He scored a painstaking 33 off 128 balls.
It was the military medium pace of Jitender Billa that was his undoing as he nicked one to Saini behind the stumps.
Laxmi Ratan Shukla (28, 34 balls) played in his customary aggressive manner when he needed to show a bit of discretion in shot making.
Rival captain Amit Mishra (4-58) bowled a googly and Shukla tried an ugly hoick to only see his stumps rattled.
With three out of the four lower order batsmen not capable enough of hanging around for reasonable time, Shukla's poor shot became the turning point as Ganguly perished trying to go for big hits.
The last pair of Ranadeb Bose (5) and Ashok Dinda (1) didn't survive long as there was mix-up when they tried to take single after a misfield by the second slip fielder.
Haryana 358 & 42-1
Bengal 339 (Sourav Ganguly 135, Arindam Das 74, Amit Mishra 4-58, Yuzvendra Chahal 2-29).
Mumbai on verge of outright win
India pace spearhead Zaheer Khan grabbed three wickets in his first competitive match after an injury lay-off as Mumbai were on the verge of an outright victory over Orissa on the third and penultimate day of
their match in Cuttack.
Zaheer polished off the tail in Orissa's first innings with two quick wickets as the hapless home side was shot out for a paltry 93 after resuming the day at 57 for seven.
Zaheer took the wickets of Deepak Behera and Basant Mohanty for figures of 3 for 31 from his 12 overs. He bagged a wicket on Wednesday.
Following on, after trailing by 436 runs in the first innings, Orissa were 163 for 7 in their second essay at draw of stumps.
They still trail by a huge 273 runs with just three second innings wickets in hand.
Off-spinner Romesh Powar grabbed four wickets in Orissa's second innings for 41 runs, while Zaheer chipped in with one for 21 from his 10 overs. Abhishek Nayar grabbed two, conceding 22 runs.
At stumps, Basant was unbeaten on 41 -- the highest for his side in the second innings -- along with Lagnajit Samal (14).
Niranjan Behera was the second highest scorer for Orissa
with 30 as the home side faced a tough time negotiating the Mumbai bowlers.
Mumbai 529 for 8 decl
Orissa 57 for 7 in 29 overs (Niranjan Behera 26; Dhawal Kulkarni 4/37, Zaheer Khan 3/31) and 163 for 7 in 75 overs (Basant Mohanty batting 41; Romesh Powar 4/41).
Punit Bisht's 223 has Baroda wilting
A brilliant unbeaten double century by wicketkeeper-batsman Punit Bisht and lion-hearted bowling by speedster Parvinder Awana put Delhi in the driver's seat against Baroda in the Elite group match in Delhi.
Bisht, who scored a career-best 223 not out, helped Delhi amass 415, a lead of 97 runs, in reply to Baroda's first innings score of 318.
Baroda were reeling at 81 for four in the second innings, still trailing by 16 runs, as Delhi have a chance of getting full five points from the tie.
In the second innings, Awana (2-25) bowled a fiery spell to dismiss Baroda openers Kedar Devdhar (16) and Aditya Waghmode (8) before Rajat Bhatia (2-12) dismissed the dangerous-looking Shatrunjay Gaekwad (32) and nightwatchman Swapnil Singh (4).
Much of the credit for Delhi's resurgence should go to Bisht, as he showed a lot of grit and gumption even though Irfan Pathan (7-114) made the ball talk.
Bisht lost Sunny Sehrawat (27) at the score of 277, as he became Pathan's sixth victim of the innings.
With 41 still to get, Ashish Nehra (23, 70 balls, 4x4) batted with lot of responsibility as they added 56 runs for the eighth wicket.
The important part was that Nehra consumed 101 minutes, which gave Bisht the necessary confidence to play his natural game.
The second new ball got them a few quick runs which helped their cause.
Once the lead was ensured, Bisht opened up and completed a majestic double hundred with a pull-shot. He even hit a six off Pathan. During his eight hours and 11 minute stay at the wicket, Bisht faced 290 balls and hit 30 boundaries and two sixes.
Pathan finally got his seventh wicket when Vikas Mishra edged one to Devdhar, and registered his best figures in an innings in the Ranji Trophy. He leads the bowler's column with 21 wickets.
"I am not thinking about the national call-up. My job is to perform and I am doing that. The best part is that I am being able to bowl in the manner I want to. As far as my batting is concerned, I am doing well and it's just that I need a big score," Pathan told the reporters at the end of the day's play.
Baroda 318 & 81-4 (S Gaekwad 32, Parvinder Awana 2-25, Rajat Bhatia 2-12).
Delhi 415 (Punit Bisht 223 no, Irfan Pathan 7-114).
UP make champions Rajasthan follow-on
Uttar Pradesh are firmly in sight of an outright victory after enforcing the follow-on on defending champions Rajasthan in the Elite division Group A match at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.
Riding on superb bowling performances by Piyush Chawla (4-59) and Bhuvnesh Kumar (3-75), UP bundled out Rajasthan for a mergre 274 in their first innings in reply to their first innings total of 492.
However, while following-on, the hosts put up a better performance in their second essay to surge to 91 without loss at draw of stumps on day three, with Akash Chopra unbeaten on 57 and Vineet Saxena on 32.
Rajasthan, though, still trail by 127 runs and have an uphill task on the final day to save the match.
Earlier, after resuming at an overnight total of 119 for two, Rajasthan lost Rashmi Parida, who was batting on 43, early with an addition of just six more runs.
The other unbeaten batsman Robin Bist, having resumed on 44, also struggled but managed to add some crucial runs to the team's total before falling to Chawla for a 170-ball 76, studded with 10 fours.
Vaibhav Deshpande (1) also fell cheaply, leaving Rajasthan reeling at 185 for five.
However, Ashok Menaria (57) scored a half-century and in the able company of Rohit Jhalani (27) added 51 runs for the sixth wicket to steady the boat.
But Bhuvneshwar got rid of Menaria and that triggered a collapse. Rajasthan were bundled out for 274.
Besides, Chawla's four wickets and Bhuvneshwar's five, skipper R P Singh chipped in with 2 for 97.
In their second innings, Rajasthan got off to a good start with Chopra and Saxena adding 91 for the unfinished opening-wicket stand.
UP 492 all out (Parvinder Singh 91, Piyush Chawla 88; Vivek Yadav 5-121, Deepak Chahar 4-144).
Rajasthan 274 & 91 for no loss (Akash Chopra batting 57, Vineet Saxena batting 32).
Karnataka in command against Saurashtra
Karnataka took complete control of their match against Saurashtra, declaring their first innings on an impressive 503 for seven and then dismissing five opposing batsmen in Bangalore.
Saurashtra were 179 for five at stumps, with Sitanshu Kotak (7) and Pratik Mehta (1) at the crease.
Saurashtra could have been n deeper trouble had opener Chirag Pathak not scored an enterprising 95.
Chetswara Pujara made a disappointing return to first class cricket, dismissed for nine. Playing his first match since recovering from a career-threatening knee injury, he was scalped by off-spinner Sunil Raju.
His fall at 138, put Saurashtra on the mat on Day 3 of the rain and bad light-affected match.
Earlier, Karnataka, resuming at the overnight 369 for 4, declared their first innings into the second session of play.
Bharat Chipli, who replaced an injured Manish Pandey in the squad, grabbed the opportunity with both hands, scoring an imperious 159 not out.
The flamboyant right-hander struck 18 fours and three sixes during his unbeaten 194-ball easy at the wicket.
Stuart Binny also compiled a half century (57) while producing 102 runs for the fifth wicket with Chipli.
Maniar (4-125) was Saurashtra's most successful bowler. Trivedi returned 2-86).