Irani Cup: Vihari ton sets ups exciting final day tussle

Hanuma Vihari’s monumental effort (180 not out) and his double century stand with Ajinkya Rahane (87) enabled Rest of India set a challenging target for Vidarbha.

Hanuma Vihari plays a shot during his unbeaten knock of 180 in Rest of India's second innings against Vidarbha.   -  S. Sudarshan

Hanuma Vihari’s monumental effort (180 not out) and his double century stand (229) for the third wicket with captain Ajinkya Rahane (87) enabled Rest of India set a challenging target for the Ranji champion Vidarbha at the VCA stadium here on Friday.

Riding on Vihari's century and half-centuries from Rahane and Shreyas Iyer, Rest of India declared its second innings at 374 for three which meant Vidarbha needed 280 runs to defend its crown. At stumps on the penultimate day of the Z.R.Irani Cup, the host had reached 37 for one

It was an eloquent response from Vihari on a challenging pitch which needed loads of patience and technical expertise to survive. Vihari was willing to graft and he systematically wore down the threat of Vidarbha spinners with an assortment of elegant and adventurous shots.

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For Vihari the sweep – both conventional and reverse - was the productive shot which he often essayed against the spinners and he wasn't averse either in coming down the track to play the inside out shots to pick up boundaries.

In the first session during which the batting was less precarious as in the previous three days, Vihari began positively with a boundary off Sarvate and in the opening hour had played a few forcing shots to dominate the bowling.

Vihari lofted Whakare over long on to bring up his second century of the match and became only the second batsman after Shikar Dhawan to score centuries in both innings in Irani Cup. He now has scored centuries in three consecutive innings in the competition which is another rare feat.

His captain Rahane was also assured in the middle but played second fiddle to the more dominating Vihari. Rahane’s footwork against spinners was exemplary and he played a few pleasing shots on both sides of the wicket. Rahane looked set for a century but a rare lapse in concentration saw him stepping out for a big shot against Sarvate and missed the ball and was stumped by Wadakar.

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The situation was tailor-made for Shreyas Iyer (61 not out) who put the tiring attack to sword. The Mumbai batsman raced to his fifty by playing the big shots and gave his captain the luxury of declaring the innings well before he had anticipated.

Ankit Rajpoot cleaned up Faiz Fazal with an inswinger in the opening over to give his team a great start. However, R. Sanjay and Aditya Taide played sensibly under pressure and took the score to 37 without any further loss.

"It was a challenging wicket to bat on. You got to back your defence on this kind of tracks to survive. I was patient and waited for the loose deliveries. Obviously playing International cricket improves your confidence. I think we are in a good position. But we will miss Gowtham but Chahar will be the key man on this track. We really have to bowl well tomorrow to win," Vihari said.

Brief scores: Rest of India 330 & 374/3 for 2 (Hanuma Vihari 180 not out, Ajinkya Rahane 87) vs Vidarbha 425 all out and 37/1 (Sanjay Raghunath 17; Ankit Rajpoot 1/10) at stumps on Day 4.