Bengal opener Arindam Das was a study in concentration as he batted through the opening day of the Ranji Trophy group A super league game against Delhi at the Ferozshah Kotla ground on Monday when the slow pace of the track and the low bounce offered him greater challenges that the home bowlers.
Remaining unbeaten with 150 (238 balls, 19 fours), the 29-year-old ensured that Bengal held the upperhand, sharing century stands with the left-handed Sreevats Goswami (61) and skipper Manoj Tiwary (batting 47) for the first and unfinished third wicket, leaving the Delhi camp scratching its head.
Arindam Das, who has served Bengal cricket for close to a decade without ever drawing national attention, was a personification of focus. His approach was that of a batsman who knew what exactly to expect from the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch and play in an unhurried manner. Clearly, he conquered the bogey of low bounce with a fair measure of comfort.
In scoring his seventh first class century, he did well not to attempt playing across the line, drawing praise from Delhi coach Manoj Prabhakar. Das got a hundred against Delhi at the Jadavpur University ground last season but that came in the second innings of a match that was heading to a draw. On Monday, he stayed focussed through the day and did his team proud.
Tiwary, who had done his side a good turn by calling the coin right and opting to bat first, continued the good work when he walked in to bat after debutant Abhishek Chowdhary (20) was trapped in front by Mithun Manhas. Tiwary (80 balls, six fours) showcased his intent to play a long innings and help Bengal along to a big first innings score.
Earlier, after he had done the hard yards and gained the psychological edge over the home side with some attacking strokes, Goswami gifted his wicket to Mithun Manhas. Lured to attempt the arial route, he ended up offering a tame catch to mid-on. The moment he played the shot, Goswami knew he had thrown away a great chance to compile his maiden first class century.
Till that moment, the 21-year-old Goswami had played an attractive venture, driving elegantly through the covers, punishing leg-spinner Chetanya Nanda for pitching short and pulling Parvinder Awana to the square leg boundary.
With his brand of intelligent off-spin bowling, Manhas was the only bowler who looked like taking a wicket on Monday. The others, barring the workhorse Rajat Bhatia, lacked the discipline that the track demanded of them, erring in line and length and hardly testing the Bengal batsmen.
Prabhakar conceded that while the track was hardly helpful to the bowlers, they needed to show a more positive attitude when they return on Tuesday. Bengal will be keen to extend its domination by winning more sessions and then pile the pressure on the home batsmen in what is clearly a battle for the first innings lead.