Pujara triple ton pegs back WI

Pujara triple ton pegs back WI

Cheteshwar Pujara’s penchant for big knocks stung West Indies ‘A’ severely as India ‘A’ inched closer towards a series-levelling victory.

Having called the shots in the first two days of the final four-day match, India maintained their vice-like grip over the game thanks to skipper Pujara’s unbeaten triple ton (306, 579m, 415b, 33x4) here at KSCA’s Rajnagar stadium on Friday.

The hosts, already 66 runs ahead of West Indies’ first innings total of 268 all out, went on to amass 564/9 in 150 overs before declaring their innings closed a few minutes before tea. With a 296-run lead, India reduced West Indies to 116/3, leaving the visitors with an enormous task of saving the match to clinch the three-match series. Windies still have to score 180 runs to make India bat again. On a brighter note for them the pitch wasn’t still aiding any turn and have two set batsmen -- Narsingh Deonarine (44 batting) and Assad Fudadin (36 batting) -- at the crease.

Pacemen Zaheer Khan, Dhawal Kulkarni and Ishwar Pandey chipped in with wicket apiece to strengthen India’s position but it was Pujara who best exemplified India’s intent to make a match of the contest. The right-hander, overnight 139, paced his innings to perfection and stayed on top of the visiting attack to notch up his third first-class triple hundred, becoming only the ninth batsman in the world and second Indian to achieve the feat. Incidentally, Ravindra Jadeja, Pujara’s Saurashtra state-mate, is the other Indian to have registered three first-class triple hundreds.

India suffered two quick setbacks in the morning session, losing overnight batsman Abhishek Nayar and Paras Dogra in the space of 10 overs and 25 runs. While the lead of 91 runs at that stage appeared handy, India needed to build further on substantially to bring in the pressure of score board.

Pujara found a willing ally in Uday Kaul (26) who was happy to play second fiddle to his captain. The two added 93 runs for the sixth wicket with dominating Pujara dominating the partnership. He also reached his 200 runs during the association but the right-hander’s heart must have been in his mouth when he nicked Miguel Cummings to second slip on 198 but fortunately for him Ashley Nurse made a mess of that chance just at the stroke of lunch.

Pujara completed his double ton immediately after lunch, clipping the same bowler to mid-wicket. At that time, a triple hundred would have been the last thing on his mind. But as he effortlessly accelerated his innings despite the apparent slowness of the pitch, the milestone appeared a possibility. He brought up his last 71 runs in just 55 balls but not before surviving some anxious moments.     

With still 27 runs needed to complete his 300, Bhargav Bhatt, batting at 10, was dismissed for a first-ball duck but Ishwar Pandey negotiated the remaining two balls in the over to keep Pujara’s hopes floating. The 25-year-old, obviously in complete control of the proceedings, kept the most of the strike to himself before reaching the triple hundred with a cover-driven four off Cummings.

This was, in fact, Pujara’s sixth triple century spread across various levels. He brought up his maiden such score at an under-14 tournament and then struck two more at under-22 level before reeling off three in first-class cricket. The first one came against Orissa (302 n.o.) in 2008 while the second one he produced against Karnataka in 2012 before repeating the feat here on Friday.   

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