AS he scored his 31st first class ton, a few fans, who had made their way to the IPCL ground, in the outskirts of the city, couldn’t stop number-crunching on how many runs Cheteshwar Pujara scored in an hour by the time he reached his milestone.
He batted for five hours and twenty two minutes, that is an average of 20 runs per hour. For Pujara it was another day in the middle where he made the bowlers toil, another exercise of his discipline and concentration. He didn’t vouch for anything way outside off-stump and the only time he accelerated was after he had made the bowlers tired. Pujara continued his reputation of a batsman hungry for big hundreds.To leave the number game aside, Pujara’s unbeaten 116 from 212 balls ensured Saurashtra took a 22-run lead lead over Assam, whose first innings ended on 234 on the second day.
Being the lone international player in Saurashtra’s line-up, Pujara’s wicket was the one Assam desperately wanted, to sustain their hopes of reaching the final after the first innings collapse. Assam coach Sanath Kumar had stressed hard in their team meetings that if they get Pujara then they have a chance to be in the contest. They indeed induced a blip. On 37, he inside edge to medium-pacer Krishna Das but wicket-keeper Arun Karthik couldn’t cling on to the offering. The reaction post Pujara’s drop fully conveyed their frustration.
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But thereafter, he conceded little. What followed was Assam trying to get him out but Pujara exuding caution and composure. They waited for another mistake–a lapse in concentration or indiscretion–till the last ball of the day, but that wasn’t to be. Pujara was to live another day.
After wrapping off Assam in the morning, Saurashtra had began their chase rather sedately. Assam’s dogged set of bowlers kept the pressure and reaped the dividends. Saurashtra lost the top three for 85 runs. But thereafter, somehow, their strategy back-fired. Arup Das and Krishna Das–their most trusted pair–probably to choke them and induce mistakes kept bowling wide. But Saurashtra’s batsmen didn’t fall for the bait. They just kept shouldering arms. The wider they bowled outside the off-stump, the more they kept leaving. Resultantly, 115 runs came in 51 overs while the next 31 overs saw them score 139 runs.
Pujara’s 50 came from 144 balls which had seven fours while his next 66 runs came in 54 balls–a pattern of his Test knocks. At 87, he slammed two fours to Pallav Das and took two to reach his hundred. “They were bowling too wide outside the off-stump. They didn’t want us to score runs and wanted to keep us waiting. We didn’t want to give any chance to them. Our plan was to make their pacers tired and accelerate in the last session,” Pujara later explained his tactics.
Earlier, Unadkat, who took three wickets on opening day, finished with 6 /77 to bowl out Assam for 234. Amit Verma, who was batting on 74 overnight, missed out on a ton. Verma and Dhiraj Goswami had added 54 runs for the eighth wicket. Unadkat bowled Goswami at the team score of 234 and Assam lost two more tail-enders, Arup and Krishna, in same over. With Pujara and Chirag Jani unbeaten on 29 at the crease, Saurashtra will be hoping for another marathon innings from their run machine.
Brief Scores: Assam: 234 all out in 87 overs (Amit Verma 98, KB Arun Karthik 59; Jaydev Unadkat 6/77). Saurashtra: 254 for five in 82 overs (Cheteshwar Pujara 116 not out, Arup Das 3/68).
Mumbai hold slight edge over MP
Mumbai held a slight edge reducing Madhya Pradesh to 197 for five in their Ranji Trophy cricket semifinal after being bowled out for 371 in their first innings in Cuttack on Sunday.
At stumps on the second day of the match at the DRIEMS Ground, Madhya Pradesh trailed by 174 runs with five wickets remaining.
Middle-order batsman Naman Ojha stood firm with a solid 79 off 182 balls, as Madhya Pradesh ended the day reasonably well placed after being 78 for four at one stage.
Brief scores: Mumbai 371 all out in 102.5 overs (Shreyas Iyer 90, Aditya Tare 68; Siddesh Lad 60; Chandrakant Sakure 5/137, Ishwar Pandey 2/34)
Madhya Pradesh: 197 for five 75 overs (Naman Ojha 79; Balwinder Sandhu 2.41).