Kolkata: Bengal batsmen cut a sorry figure on home turf to be bowled out for 147, giving Kerala an upper hand in their Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match at the Eden Gardens here Tuesday.
Young Basil Thampi returned with career-best first-class figures of 4 for 57 as Kerala’s three-pronged pace attack shared nine wickets between them to dismiss the hosts in 56.2 overs after deciding to bowl on a greenish wicket. Playing his first Ranji match of the season, MD Nidheesh (3/22) made a fine comeback, claiming the key wickets of Bengal top-scorer Anustup Majumdar (53) and skipper Manoj Tiwary (22).
Seven of Bengal batsmen failed to get to double digits scores and capped five ducks, including that of opener Koushik Ghosh and number three Sudeep Chatterjee. Anustup Majumdar made a patient 53 from 97 balls with the help of six boundaries and one hit over the fence.
At stumps on day one, Kerala were 35 for the loss of one wicket with Jalaj Saxena (14 not out) and Rohan Prem (14 not out) holding the fort for the visitors. Australia-bound India pacer Mohammed Shami bowled with raw pace and trapped opener Arun Karthik LBW with his second delivery.
When bad light stopped play, Kerala were still trailing Bengal by 112 runs.
In the top of the table clash, Group B leaders Kerala got off to a fine start with 25-year-old Thampi accounting for opener Ghosh, who was beaten by the pace and swing. Sandeep Warrier (2/42) ensured that Bengal were three down by lunch and it was to skipper Tiwary to do the repair work.
Fresh from his double century against Madhya Pradesh in the last match, Tiwary played with caution but only to be dismissed by comeback man Nidheesh. Fourth over into the second session, Tiwary lost his patience and went for across the line shot but the ball stayed low and caught him plumb in front of the middle-leg stump.
“Three of us really enjoyed bowling here. There was good carry and it boosted our confidence,” Thampi told reporters after the day’s proceedings.
“I think the wicket will remain the same. Our target will be to get a sizeable lead quickly. You never know, cricket is a funny game.”
Having made a mark in the white ball cricket, Thampi, who had impressed in the IPL with his yorkers, said he is now getting his length right in red ball cricket.
“It was difficult in the last two seasons. But now I’m getting my length right and getting wickets,” he said.
In the absence of promising Abhimanyu Easwaran, who is touring New Zealand with India A, Bengal batting lacked depth.
Writtick Chatterjee (1) and Vivek Singh (13) contributed little. Shami had a golden duck, while Ashok Dinda too failed to open his account as Bengal batting looked in a complete disarray at 115 for 8 in 46.5 overs. It was Majumdar who waged a lone battle and completed his half-century in 90 balls to take the team past 140 before edging one to the slip.
“200 would have been a good total but five ducks on this wicket was a big setback,” Majumdar said adding that they would have to bank on their pace duo of Shami and Dinda.
“It’s a team game. Not everyone performs on a single day. Bowling is the key to our success now. There’s still three innings left in the game.
“Target is to get early wickets tomorrow morning. We will have to bank on Shami and Dinda. We have to be patient,” he added.
India pacer Shami bowled five overs in the day, which means he will now have 10-12 overs left in the first innings as per the condition set by the BCCI so as to keep him fresh for the next month’s Test series in Australia. Bengal have gone in with an all-out pace attack in Shami, Dinda, Mukesh Kumar and Ishan Porel with Majumdar giving a part-time spin option.
Bengal: 147 all out in 56.2 overs (Anustup Majumdar 53, Abhishek Raman 40; Basil Thampi 4/57, MD Nidheesh 3/22, Sandeep Warrier 2/42) vs Kerala 35/1 in 12 overs (Jalal Saxena 14 batting, Rohan Prem 14 batting; Mohammed Shami 1/19).