Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara started his preparations for the South Africa Test series in right earnest with a century but failed to take Saurashtra past Bengal's first innings score of 303 as the hosts gained a crucial 78-run first innings lead in a Ranji Trophy group league encounter at Eden Gardens, here.
Pujara scored a well-made 102 but Saurashtra were all-out for 225 with India discard Ashoke Dinda claiming four for 65. Skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla showed his all-round abilities chipping in with a couple of wickets for 36 runs.
Seamer Sourav Sarkar (2/34), Shib Shankar Paul (1/43) and Sourashish Lahiri (1/24) were the other successful bowlers.
At stumps, Bengal were five for no loss in their second innings with Lahiri coming out to open with Arindam Das as regular opener Rohan Banerjee didn't field for a considerable amount of time due to stomach pain.
The overall lead is of 83 runs.
Coming in to bat at No 3, Pujara showed why he is cut above rest as he smashed 15 fours and a six off a full-toss bowled by leg break bowler Anustup Majumdar.
Saurashtra lost half of the side for 119 but till Pujara was there, the visitors harboured hopes of a first innings lead. He added 56 runs with Chirag Jani for the sixth wicket.
With the first ball of the 74th over, Dinda dismissed Pujara, as the batsman was played on to a delivery that had a bit of extra pace.
Once Pujara was gone at the score of 207, the next three wickets fell for an addition of only 18 runs. It was an action packed day at the Eden Gardens as Saurashtra openers Bhushan Chauhan (19) and Sagar Jogiyani (21) saw the first hour of play without much hassles adding 44 runs.
Then it was Dinda and Paul, who provided breakthroughs in successive overs with both the batsmen edging to wicketkeeper Wridhiman Saha behind the stumps.
Sheldon Jackson (7) and skipper Jaydev Shah (11) were out edging to Arindam Das at first slip off Sarkar and Shukla respectively.
The top half of the Saurashtra batting was gone when Aarpit Vasavada edged one to Saha off Shukla's bowling.
Playing on Rajkot featherbeds, the Saurashtra players barring Pujara found it difficult to cope with seam movement.
However, with two days to go and Bengal having a fragile batting line-up in absence of Manoj Tiwary, Saurashtra could still fancy an outright win if they can keep Bengal's lead within 250 as they have Pujara in their ranks.
Brief Scores: Bengal 303 and 5 for 0 in 1 over (Saurasish Lahiri 4 batting, Arindam Das 1 batting; Sandip Maniar 1/5).
Saurashtra: 225 all out in 79.3 overs (Cheteshwar Pujara 102; Ashok Dinda 4/65, Sourav Sarkar 2/34).