Kolkata: Hosts Bengal tightened their grip over the Ranji Trophy semi-final by reducing Karnataka to 98 for three after setting them a stiff 352-run target on day three of the contest on Monday.
Resuming the day at 72 for four, Bengal could manage just 161 but the massive 190-run first innings lead meant that Karnataka now have a mountain to climb.
Anustup Majumdar, who staged a fourth rescue-act this season with an unbeaten 149 in the first innings, hit a combative 41 in Bengal's second innings amid yet another batting collapse.
Bengal, who won their previous Ranji title during Sourav Ganguly's debut season in 1989-90, would go for the kill to make their first final in 13 years. They had lost to Mumbai by 132 runs in their last final appearance in 2007.
Karnataka have already lost their top-order and they have to produce a superlative batting effort to score the required 254 runs in the remaining two days of the match.
KL Rahul (0) was dismissed by a peach of a delivery by the first-innings hero Ishan Porel.
Fresh from three half-centuries and one century in the limited overs series in New Zealand, Rahul offered no shot and chose to leave the delivery outside the line but it swung in sharply to have him plumb in front.
As Karnataka lost their star player in the second ball of their innings with the scorecard reading zero, the 21-year-old pacer was thumping his chest in jubilation.
On a pitch which has slowed down and ball has turned soft, Karnataka duo of R Samarth and Paddikal put up a 57-run partnership after the fall of Rahul.
Bengal broke the partnership overturning the umpire's decision with a successful review from the bowling of Akash Deep who had Samarth plumb in front.
Mukesh Kumar dismissed Karun Nair (6) as all the three pacer had a share of one wicket each at the close of day three.
The 19-year-old Padikkal remained unbeaten on 50 in company of Manish Pandey (11).
Earlier, Sudip Chatterjee (45) was Bengal's top scorer in their second innings, while Majumdar and all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed (31) continued their fine form in a 61-run partnership to prop up their overall lead after a familiar top-order collapse.
Mithun bagged 4/23 and was their most impressive bowler, while Ronit More (2/56) dismissed Chatterjee and Shreevats Goswami off successive deliveries.
Majumdar was initially lucky and survived on 10 overturning a decision with successful review. An inside edge narrowly missed the stump when he was on 21.
But he broke free in the next ball with back-to-back boundaries pulling More, while Shahbaz also got into rhythm as the duo frustrated the Karnataka bowlers.
Krishnappa Gowtham (3/15) gave the breakthrough dismissing Ahmed and Bengal innings folded in 34 balls after lunch.
Bengal 312 and 161; 54.4 overs (Sudip Chatterjee 45, Anustup Majumdar 41, Shahbaz Ahmed 31; Abhimanyu Mithun 4/23, Krishnappa Gowtham 3/15).
Karnataka 122 and 98/3; 38 overs (Devdutt Paddikkal 50 batting).
Gujarat fight back after conceding first-innings lead
Medium pacer Chintan Gaja grabbed a fifer to lead Gujarat's fight-back after they conceded a 52-run first-innings lead against Saurashtra on the third day of their Ranji Trophy semi-final on Monday.
Gaja (5/15) reduced Saurashtra to 66 for 5 in their second essay at the end of the day three as the hosts took an overall lead of 118 at the SCA Stadium in Khandheri.
The 25-year-old Ahmedabad-born Gaja bowled in the right areas and was handsomely rewarded for his efforts.
His scalps included Harvik Desai (0), Kishan Parmar (0), Avi Barot (1), Vishwaraj Jadeja (6) and first-innings centurion Sheldon Jackson (0) to reduced Saurashtra to 15 for 5.
But an experienced Arpit Vasavada (23 not out) and Chetan Sakariya (32 not out) stood tall against the Gujarat bowlers till stumps were drawn.
This was after the hosts, who had posted 304, bundled out Gujarat for 252 in their first essay.
Gujarat were reeling at 155 for 8 at one stage in their first innings, but then Rujul Bhatt (71 off 212 balls) and Gaja (61 off 103 balls) joined hands to bail their side out by adding 87 runs for the eighth wicket.
It was Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Unadkat (3/86), who broke the stand by dismissing Bhatt, caught by Avi Barot.
Bhatt's dismissal paved way for the hosts to take the first-innings lead.
Earlier in the morning, Saurashtra's Chirag Jani gave Gujarat a double blow after removing overnight batsman Axar Patel (21) and Roosh Kalaria (0) in quick succession.
But a determined Bhatt, who stuck six boundaries, stood in their way. He found an able partner in Gaja, whose knock was laced with six boundaries and four hits over the fence.
Gujarat took lunch at 211 for 8, still adrift by 93 runs.
The duo raised Gujarat's hopes of taking the first-innings lead before Unadkat broke the stand.
Saurashtra will have to bat deep on the fourth day to post a competitive target for Gujarat.
Brief Scores: Saurashtra 304 and 66/5 (Chetan Sakariya 32 batting, Chintan Gaja 5/15) v/s Gujarat 252 (Rujul Bhatt 71, Chintan Gaja 61; Jaydev Unadkat 3-86). Saurashtra lead by 118 runs.
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