Parth Bhut walked out to bat when Saurashtra was reeling at 147 for 7. To make matters worse, the team lost another wicket - of Snell Patel (70, 131b, 11x4) - even before Bhut could settle down.
But the 24-year-old from Junagadh kept his calm, showed intent and went on to score his maiden first-class century (111 n.o., 155b, 11x4, 4x6), guiding Saurashtra to 303 against Punjab in a Ranji Trophy quarterfinals clash at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Tuesday.
Batting in a challenging situation, Bhut built two crucial partnerships - 61 for the ninth wicket with Chetan Sakariya and 95 runs with Yuvrajsinh Dodiya at the fag end - to bail the team out.
Ever since making his first-class debut in 2019, Bhut has batted at No.9 and coming into the quarterfinals, he had a highest score of 49. But at a time when his team desperately needed someone to step up, Bhut played with a positive mindset, hammering Mayank Markande (4 for 84) and Siddharth Kaul for a flurry of boundaries.
At a time when Punjab looked firmly in control of the game, Bhut slowly turned things around and as Markande dropped a sitter at 93, the Saurashtra cricketer gave no further chances and brought up the coveted century in style.
Punjab, which ended the day’s play at 3-0, however, will be disappointed with the way it let the game slip despite dominating the first two sessions.
In the cold and windy conditions, Baltej Singh (3 for 60) made the most of the opportunities and dismissed Harvik Desai on the fourth ball of the day after Saurashtra decided to bat first.
Snell and Vishvaraj Jadeja, however, did manage to forge a 77-run stand before the latter was caught and bowled by Markande, while attempting a drive.
With the steady partnership broken, Punjab had an impressive passage of play just before lunch as a fuller delivery by Baltej saw Sheldon Jackson, who started off briskly with two back-to-back sixes, offering a catch to Anmol Malhotra. Captain Arpit Vasavada, too, failed to open his account and in the post-lunch session, five wickets fell before Bhut stepped up.
While Baltej dominated the first session, it was a smart move by Punjab to get the experienced Siddharth Kaul bowl from one end after lunch, along with Markande. That strategy provided the much needed rest to Baltej, and Markande bowled frequent googlies which worked in his favour as one such delivery rattled the stumps of Snell. But at the end of the day, Bhut’s gritty knock turned things Saurashtra’s way.
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