Irani Cup: Gandhi leads Gujarat fight back

The Rest of India new-ball duo of Singh and Kaul shared seven wickets but Gandhi’s maiden first-class century salvaged the day for Gujarat as the Ranji champion ended at a respectable 300 for eight.

Gandhi scored an unbeaten 136 for Gujarat.   -  PTI

Besides being first-class cricketers, one would have struggled to find another common thread between Pankaj Singh, Siddharth Kaul and Chirag Gandhi. While the burly Pankaj has been a workhorse for over a decade leading Rajasthan, Kaul has been enhancing his reputation as pace bowler on the domestic scene while plying his trade for Punjab. Gandhi, on other hand, has been trying hard to establish himself in Gujarat’s middle order for the last four years.

On Friday, however, the triumvirate from varied backgrounds saw their paths crossing each others’ at the Brabourne Stadium as they hogged the limelight away from some of the established names in Indian cricket on the opening day of the Irani Cup tie.

The Rest of India new-ball duo of Singh and Kaul shared seven wickets but Gandhi’s maiden first-class century salvaged the day for Gujarat as the Ranji champion ended at a respectable 300 for eight.

Gandhi’s unbeaten 136 (159b, 18x4, 1x6) may have given Gujarat a reason to smile after skipper Parthiv Patel elected to bat in the morning. But the day didn’t start on a promising note. Singh trapped Samit Gohel in front of the wickets in the in the opening over before Kaul put the RoI in command in a long second spell. Kaul first forced run-machine Priyank Panchal to edge one to Karun Nair at first slip before forcing Patel to play one on to the stumps just before lunch.

Singh struck again in the first over of the afternoon session, with Dhruv Raval nicking to ’keeper Wriddhiman Saha. At 82 for four, Gujarat was in danger of letting the match slip through on the opening day but Gandhi had other plans. The right-handed batsman first steadied the ship with Manprit Juneja. And once Juneja threw away a solid start, succumbing to Akhil Herwadkar’s part-time off-spin, in the last over before tea, Gandhi changed the gears without any fuss in the last session.

Of the 109 runs Gujarat scored in the last session, 73 came off Gandhi’s willow, with the batsman letting the ball move after pitching before getting his backfoot punches in play. He was especially severe on the spin duo of Shahbaz Nadeem and Kuldeep Yadav, hammering 92 runs off their bowling.

At the other end, however, Kaul continued to make inroads. Despite having injured the ring finger of his bowling hand, he added two more wickets to his kitty with the old ball. Singh then trapped Chintan Gaja with the new ball before Gandhi saw the day off with tailender Hardik Patel.

With Gujarat being without its left-arm seam duo of Rush Kalaria and R.P. Singh – both sidelined due to niggles – Gandhi knows his work will be far from over on the second morning.