Rajkot: Bengal's 'Man Friday' Anustup Majumdar stood between Saurashtra and Ranji Trophy with a defiant unbeaten 58 as the summit clash entered a tantalising final day with the visitors needing 72 runs more and hosts four wickets.
Meanwhile, BCCI ruled on Thursday that the final day of the match will be played without any spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "No public will be allowed on the final day. Only the players, match officials and media are allowed," BCCI general manager Saba Karim, who is in charge of domestic cricket, told PTI.
The decision came after the Sports Ministry's advisory to all national federations to follow the Health Ministry's advisory and avoid large gatherings in sports events.
The government's directive is unlikely to have a huge impact on the final day's proceedings with only a handful of spectators coming to watch the action on the previous four days.
Bengal ended the fourth day at 354 for six in their first innings as Majumdar added 91 runs for the unbroken seventh wicket stand with Arnab Nandi (28 batting, 82 balls), who showed a lot of courage despite getting hit on the finger by Jaydev Unadkat delivery.
Majumdar, who had bailed Bengal out of a precarious position in the quarter-final as well as semi-final, was the saviour again and got much needed support from Nandi as the duo batted out the entire evening session to keep the match evenly poised going into day five.
The home team was guilty of poor fielding and allowing easy runs to Bengal in the final session where 90 runs were scored. Harvik Desai at first slip dropped a regulation catch off Majumdar, who was on 10 at that time, and it proved to be a costly miss.
On an absorbing day four, Bengal won the morning and evening session while Saurashtra stayed in the game by taking three wickets in the afternoon.
By day three, it had become clear that final will be decided by the first innings lead and both teams were locked in a fierce battle on day four.
Resuming the day at 134 for 3, Sudip Chatterrjee (81 off 241) and Wriddhiman Saha (64 off 184) kept Bengal's fight going with a 101-run partnership.
Bengal are aiming for their first title since 1989-90 while Saurashtra are eying their maiden trophy.
Brief Scores: Saurashtra 425. Bengal 354/6 (Sudip Chatterjee 81, Wriddhiman Saha 64, Anushtup Majumdar 58 batting, Arnab Nandi 28 batting, Prerak Mankad 2/45, Dharmendra Jadeja 2/106).