Indore: Bengal had returned empty handed from Mohali, and as things stood on Monday, the maximum they can expect from their Indore campaign is one point. Unless, something extraordinary happens on the final day of the Ranji Trophy Group A tie.
Unlike Punjab, who are in the form of their life this season, Madhya Pradesh, at best, can be classified as an ordinary team. Not rich in talent and suffering from the lack of genuine match-winners, they are easy prey for most of the sides. Not for Bengal though, who conceded the first innings lead to the hosts, thus doing away with the chance of earning at least three points from the away tie.
Abhishek Jhunjhunwala did give his best with a spirited century, but Bengal still fell short of MP's first innings total. To the home team's 342, Bengal were stopped at 299, 43 runs short of three crucial points.
Resuming at overnight 200 for six, the team were banking on the experienced hands of Jhunjhunwala, who scored 107 from 226 balls. Jhunjhunwala added 66 runs to his overnight score of 41 before he was the ninth batsman out in the post-lunch session.
Bengal's hopes of overhauling MP's first innings total were dashed by two quick wickets early in the day with Laxmi Ratan Shukla out for a duck in the third over. An over later, Shami Ahmed followed Shukla without opening his account, before Jhunjhunwala stitched 83 runs with Veer Pratap Singh (30) for the ninth wicket.
For MP, Ishwar Pandey grabbed two more wickets, including that of Jhunjhunwala, to complete a five-wicket haul.
In their second essay, MP were 135 for three at the close of play. Ankit Sharma was batting on 56 while Udit Birla was undefeated on 60. With a lead of 178 runs after Day III, MP have the luxury of deciding their path. They can either bat long enough on Tuesday to kill the game, or they can go for the kill if they feel Bengal are vulnerable enough.
Bengal, after conceding the lead, had a brief hope of coming back into the match. Shami removed both the openers ' Zafar Ali and Naman Ojha ' within the first seven overs of the innings. Shami's new ball partner Veer Pratap Singh then got the better of MP captain Devendra budela to reduce the hosts to 37 for three. But Ankit and Udit batted sensibly to thwart the Bengal bowlers, putting up an undefeated 98-run fourth wicket partnership.