New Delhi: Captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla led from the front with an unbeaten 87 as Bengal reached 252 for seven in reply to Railways' first-innings score of 306 in a group B Ranji Trophy encounter at the Jamia Millia Islamia Sports Complex here on Sunday.
Bengal require another 55 runs to take the first-innings lead but Railways still look favourites to take the final three wickets.
Shukla was lucky on 51, when he mistimed a pull-shot off Krishna Kant Upadhyay, which saw poor communication between Arindam Ghosh and Shivakant Shukla. The skier was for Ghosh standing at short cover while Shivakant sprinted from pointed and made a mess of the opportunity. The Bengal captain was walking back but, to his relief, saw Shivakant drop the opportunity.
Shukla, who faced 130 balls hitting nine fours and two sixes, added 54 runs for the 8th wicket with Iresh Saxena (5 batting). Saxena did well to hang around for more than hour and half despite relentless pressure applied by the Railways bowlers led by pacer Anureet Singh (4/87).
If Shukla's fightback was the highlight of the post-lunch session, the first half of the day was dominated by Railways skipper Murali Kartik, who 'Mankaded' Bengal batsman Sandipan Das (19) in the final over before lunch after having warned him in his previous over.
Once third umpire ruled Sandipan out, a furious Bengal coach Ashok Malhotra had an altercation with Kartik and was furious that the former Test cricketer didn't adhere to the 'Spirit of the Game'.
In the morning, Subhamoy Das (20, 121 balls, 2x4) and Gitimoy Basu (56, 259 balls, 5x4) continued with their defensive batting before Anureet got the breakthrough.
He got one to nip back in as Subhamoy was adjudged leg before. Anustup Majumdar (0)'s horrible form continued as he played to a wrong line to get clean bowled.
From 80 for one, Bengal were soon 80 for three in 58.3 overs when Sandipan came in. The youngster showed some positive intent in his stroke-play before the freak dismissal brought about his end.
Basu's six hours and 23 minutes stay at the wicket which in fact put more pressure on the team finally ended when he played a cut shot which landed in second slip Jonathan Rongsen's hands off Updhayay's bowling.
Arnab Nandi (4) also didn't last long shouldering arms to an off-cutter from Anureet as Bengal were reeling at 153 for six. Veterans Shukla and Saurashis Lahiri (25) got together as they started scoring runs at a faster pace than Gitimoy and Co.
Shukla's two sixes were clean hits. The first off leggie Karn Sharma over long off while the second was a pull shot off Anureet's bowling.
Lahiri got a howler from umpire P Jayapal when the tall all-rounder was hit on the front foot by Anureet when he tried to play a forward defensive stroke.
Shukla and Saxena then played confidently during the next hour and half with the Bengal skipper hitting some delightful strokes all around the wicket. It included square drives, lap shot, square cuts and pull-shots.
Brief Scores: Railways 306. Bengal 252/7 (Laxmi Ratan Shukla 87 batting, Gitimoy Basu 56, Anureet Singh 4/87).