A magnificent effort by Manoj Tiwary kept Bengal in the hunt for three points as the home team finished the third day's play on 358 for 8, in reply to Delhi's first innings of 392, in the Elite Group B Ranji Trophy match at the Eden Gardens, in Kolkata on Thursday.
Bengal need 35 runs to ensure three points, and it can only be possible if the India international, who is unbeaten on 163, is well-supported by debutant Veer Pratap Singh (batting 0) and India discard Ashok Dinda, who will come in last.
Fresh from his maiden international century, Tiwary completed a hat-trick of tons this season and four centuries in four matches (if one includes the ODI against West Indies).
This was the talented Bengal batsman's 16th century in first-class cricket and he also completed 4000 runs in the longer format when he reached an individual score of 43.
Even if Bengal fail to get three points, Tiwary's battle will be lauded by one and all for the manner in which he batted.
With a 6-3 off-side field set and the Awanas and Sangwans trying to even prevent a single, Tiwary ensured that he didn't exposed tail-ender Iresh Saxena (12, 51 balls, 2x4) too much as he time and again took a single off the fifth ball.
Had Bengal's top-order shown enough gumption to at least play second fiddle to Tiwary, who stood tall amidst the ruins during his seven-and-a-half hour vigil at the wicket, they might have already taken the first innings lead.
He hit 22 boundaries in his 321-ball knock.
Skipper Sourav Ganguly (50, 44 balls, 10x4) played a T20-like cameo when one expected him to stick around the youngster. Ganguly effortlessly pulled Pradeep Sangwan for consecutive boundaries and then was snapped by Yogesh Nagar at point trying to for yet another expansive drive.
The former India captain would have been back when on 19, but Shikhar Dhawan dropped a simple catch at slips off Parvinder Awana's bowling.
With former Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla (31, 88 balls, 5x4), Tiwary added 88 runs for the sixth wicket.
Shukla was seen curbing his instincts to go for big shots as he played second fiddle to perfection. However, there was a lapse in concentration as Shukla was dismissed off Awana's bowling, caught by Unmukt Chand.
Comeback man Subhamoy Das, who came in at No 8, as Shami Ahmed was sent in as the night-watchman on Wednesday, played beautifully for his 36 which had six well-timed boundaries.
At the stroke of tea, Sangwan produced a yorker to castle Subhamoy as Bengal went into tea at 316 for seven. Then it was all about Tiwary fighting a lonely battle against Delhi's pace-trio of Sangwan, Awana and Kuldeep Rawat.
Bengal: 358-8 (Manoj Tiwary batting 163, Sourav Ganguly 50; Pradeep Sangwan 4-95).
Bhuvneshwar Kumar leads UP's strong reply vs Mumbai
Opener Bhuvneshwar Kumar hit an unbeaten half-century to help Uttar Pradesh score 166 for 2 in reply to Mumbai's first innings total of 414 in their Elite Group A match in Lucknow.
Kumar was unbeaten in 61 off 145 balls when stumps were drawn for the day. Keeping him company was Parvinder Singh, on 39 off 53 balls.
Kumar hit seven fours in his innings, while Parvinder blasted three boundaries and two sixes in a whirlwind innings.
Resuming at 414-9, Mumbai's Murtuza Hussain lasted just four balls before becoming the victim of Piyush Chawla off the fifth delivery of the day.
Tanmay Srivastava (23) and Kumar opened the innings for Uttar Pradesh and forged a 54-run parnership before the former was trapped in front of wicket by Romesh Pawar.
Mohammad Kaif played a strokeful cameo of 27 runs off 46 balls, inclusive of four boundaries and a six, but he was dismissed by Iqbal Abdulla after being adjudged lbw.
Parvinder and Kumar then shared an unbroken 68-run partnership for the third wicket to keep UP in the hunt.
Powar and Abdulla took one wicket each for Mumbai.
Mumbai: 414 all out in 134.5 overs.
Uttar Pradesh: 166-2 in 50 overs (B Kumar 61; I Abdulla 1-27).
Punjab consolidate after taking lead against Karnataka
Punjab clinched a crucial 76-run first innings lead to take command of their Elite group match against Karnataka at the M Chinnaswamy stadium.
Having scored 357 in the first innings, Punjab bowled out Karnataka for a modest 281.
Batting a second time round, the visitors lost three wickets for 37 runs in under ten overs, and finished Day Three on 119 for 3.
In effect, they are 195 runs ahead. If they bat until lunch, they will be assured of three points from this game.
Mayank Sidhana, who scored a gutsy 92 in the first innings, was unbeaten with 57, and giving the promising middle-order batsman company was Uday Kaul, with 23 runs to his credit.
Resuming at the overnight 183 for five, Karnataka were kept in good stead by Stuart Binny (119) and C M Gautam. The duo seemed determined to steer their side to the vital lead. But Rajwinder Singh produced the breakthrough, trapping Gautam right in front. Gautam contributed 62 to the sixth-wicket partnership of 128.
Binny continued to dominate the Punjab attack, finding the pickets frequently. He raised 46 useful runs in the company of Sunil Raju (25) before falling to Harmeet Singh.
His 119 was interspersed with 12 fours and four sixes.
The Karnataka innings folded up in a trice after Binny's fall, as they lost four wickets for seven runs.
Harmeet Singh returned figures of four for 32. Rahul Sharma claimed three wickets for 92 while Bipul Sharma bagged two wickets.
Punjab: 357 & 119-3 in 41 overs (Sidhana 57 not out)
Karnataka: 281 in 92.4 overs (Binny 119, Gautam 62; Harmeet Singh 4-32, Rahul Sharma 3-92).
Tamil Nadu in control against Gujarat
Manprit Juneja battled it out with an unbeaten 84 as Gujarat crawled to 293 for 4 but Tamil Nadu held the upper hand after piling a mammoth 698 for eight declared on day three of their Elite division match at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad.
Priyank Kirit Panchal had laid the foundation for Gujarat with a solid 80 off 129 balls.
At stumps, Pratharesh Parmar, batting on 45, was giving Juneja company.
The two will have their task cut out on Friday as the hosts still trial Tamil Nadu by 406 runs.
Resuming at their overnight score of 693 for 8, Tamil Nadu declared their innings for the addition of just five runs.
In reply, Gujarat were off to a bad start as skipper Parthiv Patel was dismissed by Jagannathan Kaushik in the third over.
Panchal and Avi Barot added 89 runs for the second wicket to steady the ship, before the latter offered a return catch to off-spinner Sunny Gupta, who had bowling figures of three for 86.
Niraj Patel could not do much, getting out cheaply for 19.
Patel's dismissal was followed by that of Panchal, so crucial to Gujarat's plans at that point of time, as the hosts slipped to 155 for four.
Juneja and Parmar then staged a recovery act, raising 138 valuable runs for the fifth wicket, a partnership that saved the day for the hosts.
Tamil Nadu: 693-8 decl in 181 overs
Gujarat: 293-4 in 87 overs (Manprit Juneja 84 not out, Priyank Kirit Panchal 80; Sunny Gupta 3-86).
Sudhindra's career-best figures put MP in command
Madhya Pradesh seamer Taduri Sudhindra had career-best innings figures of 7 for 48 as the visitors enforced the follow-on on Haryana in an Elite Group match at the Bansi Lal Stadium in Rohtak.
Haryana, who were reeling at 22 for 5 at stumps on the second day were all out for 126, with Sudhindra making full use of the conditions to grab seven for 48 in 22 overs.
Following-on, Haryana fared a little better in the second essay as they reached 147 for 2 at stumps.
While MP need another eight wickets, Haryana are still 214 runs short of avoiding an innings defeat.
Much will depend on how well Sunny Singh (batting 75, 125 balls, 11x4, 1x6) bats on Friday to at least ensure a point for the home team.
Madhya Pradesh: 487
Haryana: 126 (Taduri Sudhindra 7-48) & 147-2 (Sunny Singh 75 batting).
Pankaj Singh, Akash Chopra put Rajasthan in command
A five-wicket haul by medium pacer Pankaj Singh (5 for 64) and a brisk unbeaten half-century by Akash Chopra (87) put Rajasthan in a commanding position against Saurashtra in their Elite Group A match at the Sawai Man Singh stadium in Jaipur.
Resuming at 215-7, Saurashtra folded for 265, as the hosts took a first innings lead of 131 and then raced to 169 for one in their second essay for an overall lead of 300 runs at stumps on the third day.
Akash Chopra (87) and Hrishikesh Kanitkar (38) were at crease at the draw of stumps after opener Vineet Saxena (35) fell to Unadkat.
Former India opener Akash hit 19 fours and a six in his 188-ball innings, while skipper Kanitkar hit six boundaries in his 62-ball innings so far.
Earlier in the day, J Odedra (17) and J Unadkat (18 not out) helped Saurashtra avoid the follow-on even though they were all out for 265 just before lunch to concede a 131-run first innings lead to Rajasthan.
Pankaj, who were unimpressive thus far this season, picked five for 64, while Rituraj Singh (2-80), Sumit Mathur (2-51) and left-arm spinner Gajendra Singh (1-56) also contributed to the team's cause.
In their second essay, Akash and Vineet added 93 runs for the opening wicket in 34.4 overs to set the tone for Rajasthan.
After Vineet fell to Unadkat, Akash and Kanitkar added quick runs to put them on the driver's seat and conjure up hopes of an outright win with one more day to go in the match.
Rajasthan, who have accumulated five points from five matches, have already assured three points by taking first innings lead.
Rajasthan (1st innings): 396
Saurashtra (1st innings): 265 in 104.4 overs (C Pujara 78, B Chauhan 71; P Singh 5-64).
Rajasthan (2nd innings): 169-1 in 57 overs (A Chopra 87; J Unadkat 1-22).
Orissa batsmen set up interesting final day vs Railways
Languishing at the bottom of the table, Orissa's batsmen showed stomach for a fight as they crawled their way to 294 for 5 in reply to Railways' first innings of 379 in an Elite Group A match in Delhi.
The stage is set for an interesting final day, as Orissa need another 86 runs to get the first innings lead while the home team will require another five wickets.
Although the wicket is low and slow, Railways haven't really bowled well save for 30 minutes into the post-lunch session when the visitors lost four wickets for addition of only three runs at the Karnail Singh Stadium.
From 207 for 1, Orissa slumped to 210 for five before Abhilash Mallick (batting 36) and Govinda Poddar (batting 39) added 84 runs in 39.3 overs to steady the ship.
Southpaw Paresh Patel (95, 255 balls, 9x4, 2x6) played a rash shot against left-arm spinner Ashish Yadav to see his leg stump go for a walk. He went across towards off to expose the leg-stump and was back in the pavilion. Yadav also got one to turn and jump to get rid of Biplab Samantray (1) caught by Mahesh Yadav.
It was more due to the low bounce which saw the back of Subhrajit Sahoo (70, 115 balls, 10x4) and Subit Biswal (31) -- both castled by military medium stuff from Sanjay Bangar, who has bowled 37 overs so far.
In comparison, Railways' most potent weapon, Krishna Kant Upadhyay, was given only nine overs on Thursday, and that too in five different spells.
Leggie Karan Sharma was given only eight out of the 129 overs bowled so far, which speaks about the logic of including someone like him.
Left-arm spinner Murali Kartik (1-70), who is now four shy of 600 first-class wickets, was bowling with a defensive mindset.
Orissa 294-5 (Paresh Patel 95, Subhrajit Sahoo 70, Ashish Yadav 2-23, Sanjay Bangar 2-49).