Ashok Menaria had gained a reputation as a big-match player after making centuries in the quarters,semis and final last season. On Friday,he enhanced it. Every match is now vital for the defending champions after they conceded the first innings lead in the first two rounds.
This league encounter against Railways,a team which lost both their matches at home,presented Rajasthan with a great opportunity to resurrect their campaign. Menaria,realising the importance of posting a big total on the docile wicket at the Karnail Singh Stadium,abandoned his natural attacking game and adopted a watchful approach. Overnight on 145,Menaria continued from where he left off on Thursday evening.
He had started his innings on Thursday with an attacking intent but towards the end of the day curbed his natural game. Menarias mindset was to bat as long as possible on Friday.
He completed his maiden double ton. While making 230,the 21-year-old partnered Robin Bist for a record 398-run third-wicket partnership for Rajasthan the highest for any wicket that the team has posted to take the side to a commanding 520 for 8 declared.
Menaria had hit 13 boundaries and three sixes on Thursday but added only 8 fours in close to two sessions on Friday. You cant score freely on this pitch but my strike rate will never go under 50 even if I play slowly, Menaria said.
The record stand was broken when Menaria,looking to clear the mid-on,was caught by a diving Anureet Singh off Arlen Konwar.
Bist,who scored his first ton in two years and his second overall,fell to the part-time leg-spin of Yere Goud,when he was on 165. Quick runs down the order from Rashmi Ranjan Parida,Vaibhav Deshpande and Pankaj Singh took the score past 500.
At stumps,Railways were 32 for 1 in eight overs with Shivakant Shukla batting on 17 and Shreyas Khanolkar on 6. Sumit Mathur had got the early wicket of V Cheluvaraj. For Railways,Anureet was the only saving grace as he had figures of 5/153.
Looking back at his ground-breaking season (2010-11),Menaria said that he was happy with the manner in which he turned around his career.
I went into the quarterfinal against Mumbai thinking that there were no expectations from me as I had a bad season in 2008. I went on to score consecutive hundreds. But this double hundred is a big step… it is like stepping up a level. You dont get too many chances in Elite cricket to score big hundreds. So Im happy with my effort, said Menaria.
Brief scores: Rajasthan 521/8 declared in 172 overs (Ashok Menaria 230,Robin Bist 167; Anureet Singh 5/153,Y Goud 1/23