Kolkata: Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla again showed why he is head and shoulders above his teammates as a superb century that helped Bengal take first innings lead as well as eye for their maiden outright win of the season.
Riding on Shukla's superlative 117 off 119 deliveries with 16 fours and three sixes, Bengal scored 284 in their first innings to take a 72-run lead. The hosts then pegged UP back to 50 for three with Ashoke Dinda taking two wickets including one that saw Mohammed Kaif's stumps go for a walk. UP are 22 runs behind and have seven wickets in hand.
Resuming the day at 26 for two, Bengal were reduced to 50 for four this morning in reply to UP's 212 but the skipper arrival once again turned it around for Bengal.
Continuing his purple patch, Shukla counter-attacked the UP bowlers to give Bengal a crucial 72-run first innings lead. For the Bengal skipper, it was his second century this season, and eighth overall, besides a 95 not out in the previous match against Railways.
India discard Rudra Pratap Singh (five for 77) picked his first five-wicket haul this season but it came pretty late as some sloppy wicketkeeping by Ekalavya Dwivedi almost ruined the chances of UP, who should have lead the table.
Dwivedi dropped Sudip Chatterjee (66) in the first session as the rookie left-hander went on to notch his maiden first class half-century in a rollicking 140-run partnership with the skipper.
There was no stopping Shukla who scored with disdain and was at his aggressive best against promising UP pacer Amit Mishra.
There was a further setback for UP as skipper Piyush Chawla could not field again after being hit on his shoulder by a Shukla straight drive in the very first ball that the leg-spinner bowled.
"I had decided to put the pressure back on them. It was my day," Shukla said after the second day's proceedings.
Showering praise on the young Chatterjee, Shukla further said: "It was not easy to bat on the green top but Sudeep did well and gave me an excellent support. It all depends how soon we get them out and bat in our second innings," the captain added.
When UP batted, Dinda had Digvijay Singh caught behind before rattling Mohammad Kaif's stumps with a brilliant inswinger to dismiss the former India batsman for a duck.
In the next over, Sourav Sarkar castled night-watchman Mishra for another duck as Bengal ended the day with a lot of optimism.
Brief Scores: Uttar Pradesh 1st Innings 212 and 2nd Innings 50/3 in 17 overs (Dinda 2/36).
Bengal 1st Innings 284 in 71 overs (Laxmi Ratan Shukla 117, Sudip Chatterjee 66; RP Singh 5/77).