Jharkhand batters showed no mercy against a listless Nagaland attack as they continued their run-fest on day three by notching up 880 -- the fourth-highest team total in Ranji Trophy, on Monday.
Resuming at their overnight score of 769/9 with Shahbaz Nadeem unbeaten on 123 and No. 11 Rahul Shukla on 29, there was no declaration coming as Jharkhand's last pair added 191 runs (from 323 balls) before being bowled out in 203.4 overs.
The last partnership was also the highest in the entire innings as they made full use of the flat batting conditions and a below-par attack on offer from the Plate toppers.
Defending their strategy, Jharkhand batting coach Satish Singh termed it a "dead surface" on offer at the Eden Gardens and said his side gave their lower order the much-needed batting practice ahead of their potential quarterfinal clash against Bengal.
Left-arm spinner Imliwati Lemtur (4/179) finally broke the partnership when Nadeem tried a reverse sweep in vain to be trapped lbw.
In reply, Nagaland were 130/4 with two days' play remaining in the five-day knockout fixture as Jharkhand put one foot in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal slated post-IPL in June. Having kept the wickets for close to 204 overs across three days, veteran wicketkeeper-batter Chetan Bist showed no signs of fatigue.
The 32-year-old former Rajasthan glovesman remained unbeaten on a dogged 46 from 123 balls, while Abu Nechim was on 13 at close on day three.
During Jharkhand innings, left-arm spinner Nadeem hit 22 fours and two sixes for his career-best 177 (from 304 balls). Shukla, on the other hand, dealt mostly on sixes as he smacked the ball over the boundary six times, and hit seven fours en route to his 149-ball 85 not out.
Jharkhand's score of 880 is the highest Ranji total at the turn of 21st century and fourth overall behind Hyderabad's 944/6 declared (vs Andhra Pradesh, 1993-94), Holkar's 912/8 declared (vs Mysore, 1945-46) and Tamil Nadu's 912/6 declared (vs Goa 1988-89).
"It was a flat wicket on offer. We just wanted to bat for practice, especially the lower order who doesn't get to bat much," Singh told PTI after the end of day three. "It wouldn't be an easy match in the Ranji quarters, most likely Bengal as they are the toppers. Hopefully, it will come handy in the knockouts as they (lower order) could play 150-200 balls."
Asked to rate the Nagaland attack, he said: "It's a little difficult to judge their bowling on such a dead pitch. It's a five-day match, so we had a lot of time. We wanted to bat as a unit. I had told the batters whoever gets set, play as long as you can.
"If you see, most of the Plate matches played here were all big scores -- in the 600-700 range," he added.