Five for Akash Deep as Bengal take huge lead

Bengal 438 and 59 for 2 (Gharami 12*, Majumdar 9*) lead Madhya Pradesh 170 (Jain 65, Shubham 44*, Akash Deep 5 for 42) by 327 runs

They were thwarted by Madhya Pradesh in the semi-finals last year, but Bengal are on course for payback this time around, with a final appearance in the 2022-23 Ranji season almost theirs. Having opened up a 268-run lead courtesy a five-wicket haul by fast bowler Akash Deep, Bengal ended day three on 59 for 2 at the Holkar Stadium.

MP’s hopes of clawing back hinged on getting as close to Bengal’s first-innings score of 438, but a regular stream of wickets thwarted their progress. Three of their batting pillars – Rajat Patidar, Aditya Shrivastava and the returning Venkatesh Iyer – managed scores of 0, 7 and 7 respectively as MP slumped to 101 for 6.

Allrounder Saransh Jain, who was promoted up to No. 3 held fort to carve a fighting half-century, his third in first-class cricket, but lack of support from the rest of the batting group meant MP had conceded too much ground by the time their first innings ended. Shubham Sharma’s unbeaten 44 at No. 8 was merely academic.

Akash, who has shouldered the responsibility of leading Bengal’s attack in Mukesh Kumar’s absence, ended up with his third five-for of the season to take his wickets tally to 36 in 15 innings at an average of 20.08. He was complemented by left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed, who finished with 2 for 30.

In their second dig, Bengal lost openers Karan Lal ans Abhimanyu Easwaran early, but will have Anustup Majumdar and Sudip Gharami, centurions from the first innings, resume in their quest to bat MP out of the match and seal their second Ranji final appearance in three seasons.

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