Pujara's double ton floors Karnataka

Super Saurashtra march towards semifinals

Pujara's double  ton floors Karnataka

Cheteshwar Pujara effectively ended Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy campaign with a fiery double century on day four of their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal at the University of Saurashtra ground on Wednesday.

The right-hander, who has been included in the Indian squad for the upcoming one-day series against England, showed he was ready for the 50-over format as he scored 261 from a mere 275 balls with forty fours and one six, taking Karnataka’s ailing bowling attack to the cleaners in a display that ended any dispute about his ability to play the shorter version.

Pujara’s 19th first-class century – second of this season in three matches -- guided Saurashtra to 463 for three in just 90 overs for a mammoth 536-run lead. Saurashtra, who had scored 469 in the first innings before bowling out Karnataka out for 396, had enjoyed a 73-run lead and as such, Jaydev Shah’s men would be looking to bat out the final day to make it through to the semifinals.

With Karnataka’s bowling faltering at the wrong time, they needed another miracle -- similar to the one that helped them enter the quarterfinals little over a week ago. But the energy that marked that victory was nowhere to be seen on Wednesday as Pujara, along with a couple of his team-mates, made the most of their appalling effort and remorselessly plundered runs throughout the day.

Playing with purpose

Saurashtra began with a clear mandate of playing out the entire day as Sitanshu Kotak and Sagar Jogiyani took guard. Their plan took a hit when they lost Kotak (7) to KP Appanna in the sixth over of the day but Pujara walked in and put their plans back in play.

He used the crease effortlessly and scored the bulk of his runs behind the wicket with late cuts and flicks off Karnataka’s spinners who were doing nothing more than releasing the ball and hoping for it to land in the right spot. To their dismay and Pujara’s delight, it pitched exactly where the 24-year-old wanted it to.

Jogiyani (70 runs, 98 minutes, 95 balls, 10x4, 1x6) and Pujara scored comfortably, adding 89 runs for the second wicket and carried the team to 115 for one before Jogiyani was caught by K L Rahul at first slip off K Gowtham.

Pujara forged another century partnership with Shah before the left-hander was dismissed, with Saurashtra cruising at 220 for three. Pujara found then found another partner in Sheldon Jackson (70 batting, 192m, 116b, 8x4, 1x6) and went on to chalk up an unbeaten 243-run partnership for the fourth wicket to all but eliminate Karnataka from the contest.

Pujara was swift to pounce on the bad balls and intelligent enough to sneak singles when they were pitched in the right areas even though those were a rarity. He played deft sweeps, late cuts and on the odd occasion when the ball was thrown up, he danced down the track and struck it over the bowler’s head.

Once past his century, Pujara, who took a mere 111 balls to reach that landmark, only became harder to bowl at.

Sweeping, reverse-sweeping and paddling the ball behind the ’keeper, he added runs by the handful and reached his double hundred in the next 123 balls before adding the next sixty off just 41 balls.

Another day remains in the encounter but this may as well be the last as Karnataka have been outplayed by a better opponent, or rather Pujara.

Score board

SAURASHTRA (I Innings): 469 all out

KARNATAKA (I Innings): 396 all out

SAURASHTRA (II Innings): Sitanshu Kotak c Gautam b Appanna 7 (23m, 13b, 1x4), Sagar Jogiyani c Rahul b Gowtham 70 (98m, 95b, 10x4, 1x6), Cheteshwar Pujara (batting) 261 (343m, 275b, 40x4, 1x6), Jaydev Shah c (sub, Karun Nair) b Sharath 31 (76m, 47b, 3x4, 1x6), Sheldon Jackson (batting) 70 (192m, 116b, 8x4, 1x6). Extras (B-7, LB-10, W-1, NB-6) 24. Total (for 3 wkts, 90 overs) 463.

Fall of wickets: 1-26 (Kotak), 2-115 (Jogiyani), 3-220 (Jaydev).
Bowling: Abhimanyu Mithun 10-0-52-0 (w-1, nb-5), KP Appanna 28-1-118-1, K Gowtham 21-2-118-1 (nb-1), Amit Verma 15-2-63-0, KL Rahul 3-0-28-0, Stuart Binny 4-0-22-0, HS Sharath 9-0-45-1.

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