Sheldon Jackson and Arpit Vasavada smashed sublime centuries to leave Karnataka out of kilter and bring Saurashtra right back into the Ranji Trophy semifinal at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Friday.
From an overnight 76 for two, Saurashtra reached 364 for four at stumps on day three, just 43 runs shy of Karnataka’s first-innings total.
It was 36-year-old Jackson’s 20th First Class ton (160, 245b, 23x4, 2x6) and his fourth against Karnataka, the most he has scored against any opponent. For Vasavada, it was his 11th century (112 batting, 219b, 15x4) and the third of the current campaign.
When Harvik Desai fell early in the morning (92/3), leg-before to V. Koushik, the Karnataka players had their tails up. The chirping was incessant as their bowlers charged in and words of encouragement filled the air.
But the optimism waned, steadily over the next five hours, as Jackson and his skipper combined for a tremendous 232-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
By the end of it, Karnataka was left waving the white flag, with part-timer R. Samarth trying Kedhar Jadhav-style sling bowling. So desperate had the hosts become that Manish Pandey even claimed a catch off Jackson at second slip when the ball had clearly bounced in front.
“Until now I hadn’t got big runs this season,” Jackson said later. “Normally when someone tells me something, I go back at them. Here I had to cut out everything. When I came in, 400 was very far. If I had gotten out, it would have been a loss to my team. I focussed on the bowler and the ball rather than what was going on [around].”
The Jackson-Vasavada association could have very well ended the moment it started if Manish, at leg-slip, had held on to an easy offering from Vasavada off K. Gowtham when the batter was still on three. The miss ensured Karnataka was left chasing leather for the rest of the day.
Jackson, with his upright stance and broad-chested presence, was at his languid best, driving and pulling with aplomb. Pacer V. Vyshak and Shreyas Gopal bowled erratic lines and were duly picked for multiple boundaries. The massive pulled six in front of square off Vyshak was Jackson’s standout shot.
Vasavada, at the other end, played a compact and watchful knock. The eye-catching feature was the use of his feet, and the immaculate ability to hit along the ground. He drove sweetly and swept efficiently and even unleashed the odd pull, unmindful of the fact that he was hit on the grill early on.
Jackson eventually departed when he was trapped in front by a Gowtham delivery that turned sharply into him. But by then he had left Saurashtra in a position of strength.
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