Senior batter Manoj Tiwary combined with the young Sudip Kumar Gharami to steer Bengal to a hardfought seven-wicket win against Baroda to climb to the top of Group A in the Ranji Trophy in Kalyani on Friday.
The duo stitched together a century partnership at a time when the match seemed to be slipping away from their hands in the chase of a modest 177 for victory.
After being reduced to 53/3 on Day 3, things looked dismal for Bengal but young Gharami (76 not out) and domestic stalwart Tiwary (60 not out) kept the Baroda bowlers at bay as they batted for nearly 33 overs to put on an unbeaten match-winning partnership of 126 runs.
Gharami, playing in only his 12th first-class match, began from where he had left off on Thursday as he scored his fourth half-century, while captain Tiwary brought all his experience into play to guide his team to an important victory.
At Kalyani: Baroda 269 and 98 lost to Bengal 191 and 179 for 3 in 61 overs (Sudip Kumar Gharami 78 not out, Manoj Tiwary 60 not out) by seven wickets. Bengal 6 points, Baroda 0.
At Nadaun: Odisha 191 and 374 lost to Himachal Pradesh 258 and 310 for 7 in 76.3 overs (Ankit Kalsi 165 not out, Rishi Dhawan 102; Basant Mohanty 3/40) by three wickets. HP 6 points, Odisha 0.
At Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh 142 drew with Uttarakhand 172 for 4 in 53.3 overs (Kunal Chandela 56, Swapnil Singh 50 not out.; Karthikeya Jaiswal 3/40). UP 1 point, Uttarakhand 3 points.
Jalaj's eight-wicket haul seals big win for Kerala
Veteran off-spinner Jalaj Saxena came up with a career-best bowling figures of 8/36 as Kerala thrashed Services by 204 runs in the Ranji Trophy Group C match to win their third game this season on Friday.
After setting Services a target of 341 to win the rubber, the 36-year-old all-rounder, a veteran of 131 first-class games, went about his task in a cool and calculated manner as he ended up with match figures of 11/102 for the match.
However, Kerala batter Sachin Baby was adjudged player of the match after he scored 159 and 93 in the two innings.
Services, starting at the overnight score of 20 without loss, were in for a nightmare as Jalaj, after initial resistance from Shubham Rohilla (28) and Sufiyan Alam (52), ran through their batting line-up.
The former Madhya Pradesh cricketer, who moved to Kerala a few seasons back, first got rid of Sufiyan, who had started to look dangerous.
But once the 27-year-old departed, run out by Jalaj off his own bowling, the tweaker took control of the proceedings.
From 80/2, Services were down to 98/5, with even veteran batters like skipper Rajat Paliwal -- a prolific run-scorer with a healthy average touching 45 -- going for duck in the 33rd over.
The contest ended in the 47th over with Jalaj taking the wicket of Poonam Poonia, trapping the tail-ender in front of the wicket.
Kerala are in contention for a place in the quarter-finals as they are placed second behind Karnataka with 19 points. Karnataka have one foot in the last-eight having earned 26 points so far.
In Thumba: Kerala 327 and 242 for 7 decl beat Services 229 and 136 in 46.4 overs (Jalaj Saxena 8/36) by 204 runs. Kerala 6. Services 0.
In Jamshedpur: Jharkhand 103 and 306 beat Chhattisgarh 113 and 312 in 114.3 overs (Amandeep Khare 151; Anukul Roy 5/45, Shahbaz Nadeem 3/87) by 44 runs. Jharkhand 6. Chattisgarh 0.
MP thrash Gujarat to consolidate pole position
Defending champions Madhya Pradesh defeated Gujarat by 206 runs to consolidate their position at the top of Group D in a Ranji Trophy match in Indore.
Shubham Sharma did the star turn for MP with scores of 72 and 101 not out to steer his side to victory.
After posting 312 in their first innings riding on wicketkeeper Himanshu Mantri's 159 and Shubham's 72, MP bundled out Gujarat for 211.
Skipper Priyank Panchal top-scored for Gujarat with 71, while Manan Hingrajia made 66.
In MP's second innings, Shubham led the charge with a quick-fire ton off just 118 balls that was decorated with eight boundaries and three hits over the fence.
Mantri (65) and Rajat Patidar (57) also made useful contributions with the bat as MP declared their second innings at 280 for 6 in 71.3 overs, thereby setting a 382-run target for Gujarat.
But Gujarat faltered in the chase as off-spinner Saransh Jain (4/64) struck early blows to derail the visitors.
Medium pacer Gaurav Yadav (3/41) complemented his bowling colleagues as MP bowled out Gujarat for 121 runs in 40.3 overs to pocket full points from the match.
In Mohali, hosts Punjab defeated Jammu and Kashmir by four wickets to jump to the second spot in Group D.
Elsewhere in the group, Railways beat Tripura by six wickets while the match between Vidarbha and Chandigarh ended in a stalemate as no play was possible on Friday due to bad weather.
At Indore: Madhya Pradesh 312 and 280for 6 declared in 71.3 overs (Shubham Sharma 101 not out, Himanshu Mantri 65; Siddharth Desai 4/80) vs Gujarat 211 and 121 all out in 40.3 overs (Chintan Gaja 32; Saransh Jain 4/64). MP 6 points, Gujarat 0.
At Mohali: Jammu and Kashmir 212 and 260 (Musaif Ajaz 89; Baltej Singh 5/45) vs Punjab 268 and (target 205) 210 for 6 in 24.5 overs (Abhishek Sharma 83, Mandeep Singh 45 not out; Abid Mushtaq 4/56). Points: Punjab 6, Jammu and Kashmir 0.
At Chandigarh: Vidarbha 307 for 6 decl in 73.2 overs (Sanjay Raghunath 133; Hartejassvi Kapoor 2/40) vs Chandigarh 16 for 1 in 5 overs. Vidarbha 1 point, Chandigarh 1 point).
At Surat: Tripura 96 and 449 (Sudip Chatterjee 165, Rajat Dey 89; Akash Pandey 4/105) vs Railways 337 and 211 for 4 in 40.3 overs (Mohammad Saif 69; Rajib Datta 2/52). Railways 6 points, Tripura 0.
Delhi bag first points of season
Himmat Singh's stylish hundred complemented by a gutsy 65-run last-wicket stand between tail-enders Harshit Rana and Divij Mehra earned Delhi three vital points against Andhra in Group B.
However, with only five points from five games, Delhi are out of the competition and even two bonus-point wins in the next two games against title contenders Mumbai and wooden spooners Hyderabad won't take them to the top-two in the group.
Inexplicably dropped from the playing eleven in the previous away game against Saurashtra, Himmat was back with a bang as he hit 10 fours and three sixes in his 104 off 204 balls in Delhi's first innings score of 488/9.
This was after Andhra declared its first essay at 459 for 9.
However, Himmat was the ninth wicket to fall at 423 and Delhi were still 33 runs short with a wicket in hand.
But credit should be given to debutant Divij (32 not out) and an equally greenhorn Harshit (33 not out) as they held their nerves.
Andhra captain Hanuma Vihari's ploy of asking his pacers KV Sasikanth and Nitish Kumar Reddy to bowl short with the field up didn't make much sense as both the batters got some easy runs.
Just before the start of the mandatory overs, the players shook hands as Delhi ensured its first respectable performance of the season.
If in-form Dhruv Shorey's brilliant 185 off 311 balls laid the foundation, the talented Himmat kept the team afloat with his audacious strokeplay, blending caution with aggression.
Against left-arm spinner Lalit Mohan, he hit two maximums down the ground while off-spinner Shoaib Mohammed Khan was lofted over long-on for a six. His airborne celebration was an indicator of what he must have gone through after being axed in the last game.
Once Shorey got out after a 156-run stand, Lakshay Thareja despite limited batting capability, helped Himmat in forging a 40-run stand for the sixth wicket.
However, from 406 for 5, Delhi slumped to 423/9 but credit to Harshit and Divij for giving the team's disastrous campaign some sense of respectability.
In the end, there is only one word for skipper Yash Dhull. While he is a young captain, he has lost a bit of respect in the dressing room for running away from challenging situations and conditions.
It is learnt that he couldn't be convinced to open or come at No. 3 in conditions that aided seam and swing. Not once in the last four games did he want to come out when the chips were down.
It will be interesting to see if DDCA president Rohan Jaitley continues with a man whose temperament, more than his technique, has come under the scanner in every game.
At Delhi: Andhra 459/9 declared vs Delhi 488/9 in 147 overs (Dhruv Shorey 185, Himmat Singh 104, Harshit Rana 33 not out, Nitish Reddy 3/90).
At Pune: Maharashtra 446 & 364/5 (Ankit Bawne 152 not out, Azim Kazi 103 not out) vs Tamil Nadu 404.
At Guwahati: Mumbai 687/4 decl. vs Assam 370 & (fo) 189 (Shardul Thakur 3/54).