Opener Abhimanyu Easwaran showed his mettle under pressure as his patient 129 enabled Bengal to score 261/6 at stumps on the first day of their Ranji Trophy quarter-final against defending champions Gujarat. Courtesy Easwaran's sixth first-class hundred and his 175-run stand for the fifth wicket with veteran Anushtup Majumdar (94), Bengal's score had a semblance of respectability after being reduced to 59 for 4 at one stage.
Easwaran, who is on national selection committee's radar, showed perfect big match temperament as he fished his team out of troubled waters. His 246-ball knock had 17 boundaries.
It was the second new ball that did the trick as he edged one off Chintan Gaja (2/75 in 20 overs) to Samit Gohil.
With Bengal playing five specialist bowlers on a greenish Sawai Man Singh track, the tail-enders would now need to get the team past 300-run mark.
Abhishek Raman (5) and No. 3 Writtick Chatterjee (4) were quickly dismissed by Ishwar Chaudhary (3/49), while Gaja trapped Manoj Tiwary plumb in front.
Majumdar and Easwaran then resurrected the innings as they played the two spinners - left-arm orthodox Siddharth Desai (1/67) and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla (0/43) without much fuss.
Majumdar, who has been in good form since his comeback, faced 177 balls, hitting 11 fours. In order to reach his hundred quickly, Majumdar was stumped by Desai.
Getting Easwaran's wicket at the fag end put the defending champions in driver's seat, considering that Gujarat have a far superior batting line-up comprising skipper Parthiv Patel, prolific opening duo of Priyank Panchal and Samit Gohel along with Rujul Bhatt.
Bengal 1st innings: 261/6 (Abhimanyu Easwaran 129, Anushtup Majumdar 94, Ishwar Chaudhary 3/49, Chintan Gaja 2/75) vs Gujarat.