Bengal pacer Akash Deep bowled a game-changing spell en route to a five-wicket haul to put his team in the driver’s seat against defending champions Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy semifinal on Friday. Akash Deep (5/42) , who played a key role in their win over Jharkhand in the quarterfinals, rattled Madhya Pradesh’s recovery act led by overnight batter Saransh Jain (65), claiming two wickets in two balls. He uprooted Jain’s off-stump and in the next ball trapped Kumar Kartikeya leg-before to breathe life into Bengal’s lacklustre attack, which also has Ishan Porel and Mukesh Kumar.
He grabbed his fourth five-wicket haul in first-class cricket dismissing Avesh Khan before Madhya Pradesh were bowled out for 170 when their No. 11 batter Gaurav Yadav was run out.
Bengal took a huge first innings lead of 268 runs but skipper Manoj Tiwary did not enforce follow-on.
Bengal ended the third day on 59 for 2, with an overall lead of 327 runs to inch closer to the final.
The two-time Ranji champions last reached the final in 2020 where they lost to Saurashtra.
Bengal are yet to win the Ranji Trophy since 1989-90.
Much like the first innings, the opening duo of Abhimanyu Easwaran (19) and Karan Lal (17) departed in quick succession.
First innings centurion duo of Sudip Gharami (12 batting) and Anustup Majumdar (9 batting) were at the crease with two more days to go.
Earlier resuming at the overnight score of 56 for 2, night watchman Anubhav Agarwal departed with the addition of just two runs after edging one off Mukesh Kumar.
At the other end, Akash Deep cleaned up Rajat Patidar for a duck, while left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed dismissed MP skipper Aditya Srivastava (7) as half of their side were out in the pavilion for 89.
Venkatesh Iyer looked to counter-attack and smashed Akash Deep for a six, but he became Ahmed’s second victim.
But the left-right combination of Jain and Shubham Sharma (44 not out) resisted Bengal with their resolute partnership of 54 runs.
Jain made full use of a reprieve on 37 to complete his fifty as they duo looked at ease.
But Akash triggered the collapse after he was brought back into the attack in the post-lunch session.
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