Subhamoy the hero

Calcutta: Till Thursday evening, Subhamoy Das wasn't aware that he would be playing Bengal's Ranji Trophy opener against Rajasthan. He didn't get to bat at nets and had to be content with only fielding practice on the eve of the match.

It was only when a member of the team management called to say that he would be required to open the innings following injuries to regular openers, Parthasarathi Bhattacharjee and Rohan Banerjee, that Subhamoy came to know of his responsibility.

The senior batsman had got to play only one Ranji match last season, but didn't disappoint on Friday against the defending champions.

On a wicket with a fair sprinkling of grass, he countered the new ball with confidence and showed good temperament before being dismissed for 95.

It was mainly due to Subhamoy's innings and Manoj Tiwary's 42 that Bengal reached 187 for four at close, on an opening day that saw two interruptions and 88 minutes of play being lost because of bad light.

While Tiwary was unlucky, Subhamoy made most of the opportunity the came his way. Not for once was he troubled by the early movement on the wicket and dominated the bowling as the day wore on. His 248-minute vigil included 15 boundaries and a straight six.

Even Pankaj Singh, the most successful of the Rajasthan bowlers with three for 30, failed to trouble him. Had Bengal not lost two quick wickets towards the end of the day, they would have been in a position to call the shots.

The visitors' bowling, except for Pankaj, had very little to show on this wicket. It was pretty ordinary stuff making one wonder about their depth and efficacy.

Pankaj, the most successful of their bowlers with 34 wickets last season, bowled with precision and tenacity. The six feet-plus pacer didn't extract much pace or bounce from the wicket, but managed to force the batsmen to commit mistakes with his accuracy.

The start wasn't encouraging for Bengal as Rajasthan made full use of their decision to field first. Jayojit Basu's mistimed pull was taken cleanly at mid on and then Writam Porel was caught behind as he erred in judging an away going delivery.

Subhamoy and Tiwary then got together to stitch a 95-run partnership before Tiwary was caught brilliantly at short mid-wicket by Ashok Maneria.

In contention for a Test berth ahead of the selection for the first Test against England, on Monday, the Bengal captain wanted to prove himself once again after his 93 for India A in Mumbai.

He had just hit Madhur Khatri to the mid-wicket fence when he miscued while trying to repeat the shot against the off-spinner a ball later, bringing an end to his 99-minute knock.

"It was sheer bad luck… I was batting well until…" a disappointed Tiwary said later.

One, however, couldn't also rule out the physical tiredness bit. Having played for three days against England, Tiwary returned to the city late Thursday night before joining his teammates at the Eden on Friday morning.

Seven runs later, Subhamoy was adjudged leg before to Pankaj. The ball, though, could have missed the leg stump.

It was left to Anustup Majumdar and Wriddhiman Saha to take charge before another stoppage forced the close of play.

If the pair can bat through the first session on Saturday, Bengal could hope to put the defending champions under pressure.

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