Irani Cup: Saha, Pujara help RoI claw its way back

Thanks to Saha’s unbeaten 123 (214b, 257m, 16x4, 3x6) and his unbroken partnership with captain Cheteshwar Pujara (83 not out, 181b, 312m, 10x4), Rest of India ended the penultimate day at 266 for four, with the target of 379 starting to appear within its sight.

Wriddhiman Saha

Wriddhiman Saha made a statement for retaining his spot with an aggressive hundred.   -  AP

The Irani Cup tie was billed as the battle between Parthiv Patel and Wriddhiman Saha for the slot of India’s wicket-keeper. And Saha – the primary stakeholder who had been converted into the challenger following Patel’s sterling show during Saha’s injury layoff – made a statement for retaining his spot with an aggressive hundred that brought Rest of India right back in the game.

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Thanks to Saha’s unbeaten 123 (214b, 257m, 16x4, 3x6) and his unbroken partnership with captain Cheteshwar Pujara (83 not out, 181b, 312m, 10x4), Rest of India clawed its way back to end the penultimate day at 266 for four, with the target of 379 starting to appear within its sight.

The day didn’t start so well for Saha, though. He spilled a regulation catch off Chirag Gandhi’s edge to deprive Siddharth Kaul of an early breakthrough after Gujarat started its second innings at 227 for eight. The drop didn’t cost RoI too much as Kaul got rid of both the batsmen for an addition of 19 runs 50 minutes into the morning.

READ: >Wriddhiman Saha excels in his comeback

For the next couple of hours, however, Gujarat was on top of the game. With the left-handed opening combination starting to face pacers confidently, Parthiv introduced off-spinner Karan Patel in the eighth over and Akhil Herwadkar played a reckless stroke to gift his wicket in the bowler’s second over. Left-arm spinner Hardik Patel then struck in successive overs to remove Abhinav Mukund – caught at forward short-leg – and Karun Nair whose slog resulted in the leg-stump going for a walk. When Parthiv took a diving catch to dismiss Manoj Tiwary off Mohit Thadani, RoI was reeling at 63 for four.

In came Saha and adopted a counter-attacking strategy. Thadani challenged him by bowling full on a wicket that still offered help for pace bowlers and Saha cleared the in-field with little trouble. Off the 29 balls he faced from the burly bowler, Saha scored 39, most of which were after clearing the mid-off.

With Pujara holding on to one end, Saha continued to take calculated risks. And he didn’t flounder in any of his premeditated shots, reaching his hundred with a stylish lofted drive over mid-off off Chintan Gaja.

Parthiv out of the field

With the Gujarat bowlers looking lost for ideas, it didn’t help their cause that captain Parthiv had to return to the change room for the last 90 minutes after suffering from cramps in his left calf. Dhruv Raval kept in his place, with Manprit Juneja leading the troupes.

While Gujarat will be looking forward to its captain inspiring the lot to end the season on a high note, Saha and Pujara would want to see the team home and earn much-needed confidence going into the remaining Test season.