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Bengal, 25 for one in their second innings, are still 228 behind Punjab, and with 90 overs left in the game, they will need someone or two to play long innings and hope for a draw. But that may not be easy for the visitors.
As in the game against Hyderabad, Punjab followed up the good work done by their bowlers in the first innings by building a huge tally on the board with as many as three centurions, to declare at 579 for seven. Overnight hero Mayank Sidhana couldn't add much to his tally and was dismissed for 115 and when skipper Mandeep Singh too fell for a duck, Bengal entertained hopes of a comeback. But the young and in-form Jiwanjot and Uday Kaul played brilliantly to thwart the Bengal bid.
Jiwanjot, who scored a double century on debut last week, looked set for another before his effort ended at 158, out to the part-time bowling of Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwary. By that time Punjab had more or less shunted Bengal out of contention but then the partnership between Kaul and Amitoze Singh widened the gap further. While Amitoze got a half century, Kaul slammed an unbeaten 165 with 24 fours.
It may be recalled that the 24-year-old Kaul had been Punjab's leading run-getter for four years, till last season. Once touted as India material, Kaul didn't even gain selection for an India A squad despite consistent performances at the domestic level. Even the Punjab team management had put pressure on him by naming another wicket-keeper batsman, Gitansh Khera, in the squad but Kaul's century here will probably silence his critics.
Brief scores: Bengal 326 and 25 for 1 (J Basu 11, S Kaul 1/3) vs Punjab 579 for 7 dec. (U Kaul 165*, Jiwanjot 158, Sidhana 115, Amitoze 52, L Shukla 2/65)