Pujara triple hundred takes Saurashtra to semis
Cheteshwar Pujara’s triple century in Saurashtra’s quarterfinal clash against Karnataka at Rajkot helped his side secure a semifinal slot in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy.
After winning a crucial toss, Saurashtra had slid to a tricky 152/4 on their home ground on Day 1 of the 5 day match, Abhimanyu Mithun (3/79) giving Karnataka an early edge. Mithun’s second wicket in the innings, that of Jaydev Shah was his 100th in Ranji Trophy matches.
Pujara only made 37 but runs from Sheldon Jackson (83) and Aarpit Vasavada (152) helped Saurashtra post a good total of 469 in their first innings. Karnataka’s spinners could not impress, lead spinner KP Appanna only managing returns of 1/93 in his 38 overs.
Saurashtra’s spin trio did better, taking 9 of the Karnataka wickets to fall in the first innings. Robin Uthappa (60) and KL Rahul (55) added 95 for the opening stand but Saurashtra’s spinners kept plugging away to ensure no other partnerships grew too large. Manish Pandey (177) batted well for his first hundred of the season but the lack of adequate support meant that Karnataka were bowled out for 396 at Stumps on Day 3.
With a crucial 73 run first innings lead in hand, Saurashtra focused on closing the door on Karnataka’s chances. Day 4 saw Cheteshwar Pujara ground the bowling into dust but there was a lot of entertainment for the spectators present. With his call up to the ODI side announced, he hit 40 fours and a six to rack up 261 runs off 275 deliveries by Stumps, going past 1000 runs for the season despite missing matches during the Tests against England.
Sagar Jogiyani (70) and Sheldon Jackson gave him company as Saurashtra piled up 463 runs on Day 4. There was no relenting on Day 5 as they extended the lead beyond 700 runs.
Pujara brought up the fifth triple hundred of his domestic career but his scoring was slowed down tremendously on Day 5. Jackson completed his hundred as well, his century crucial in supporting Pujara’s mighty knock. Pujara went past his previous FC best of 302 and survived a dropped catch soon after that. He kept batting, crossing 6000 runs in FC cricket on his way.
When Jackson was dismissed for 117, it brought to an end a crushing partnership of 343 runs for the fourth wicket. Pujara too was dismissed shortly after crossing 350, his innings winding up finally on 352 (427b, 4x49, 6x1).
Jaydev Shah showed no intention of declaring and Saurashtra’s innings finally came to an end when play was called off with their score reading 718/9, a huge but senseless lead of 781. Only one of Appanna’s 47 overs was a maiden in the innings, his returns were 2/178.
Saurashtra will now face Punjab in the semifinal to be played at Rajkot on January 16th. Mumbai will play Services in the other semifinal to be played on the same date at the Palam Cricket Ground in Delhi. They will be without the services of Zaheer Khan who is still recovering from the calf strain that kept him out of their quarterfinal against Baroda.