Saurashtra pile more misery

Saurashtra's Cheteswar Pujara continued to be Karnataka's tormentor, slamming 248 on the second day of their Ranji Trophy match in Rajkot. PTI File Photo

Ruthless Saurashtra continued to call the shots against Karnataka for the second day in succession, leaving the visitors with a Herculean task of saving their Group B Ranji Trophy contest here on Sunday.

The protagonists of Saturday reenacted their heroics at the Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground on Sunday too, Cheteshwar Pujara going on to amass a stroke-filled 248 (390b, 24x4, 1x6) and Sheldon Jackson completing a fine century (161, 299b, 7x4, 6x6). The duo’s mammoth 394-run stand for the third wicket and Prerak Mankad’s quickfire 86 not out late in the day powered Saurashtra to huge 581/7 declared in 166 overs.

The mental fatigue of chasing shadows for nearly two days showed on in-form opener Devdutt Padikkal as the opener edged the very first ball he faced off Jaydev Unadkat, Karnataka taking stumps on a pasting day at 13/1 in 8 overs.

Pujara and Jackson, resuming on overnight scores of 162 and 99 respectively, took off from where they had left off the previous evening. With the century weighing heavily on his mind, Jackson was circumspect initially but the moment he got there — his 17th first-class ton — in the third over of the day, it was business as usual.

Pujara continued with his attacking approach, using his feet brilliantly to the spinners and carting them effortlessly through the cover and midwicket region. He didn’t allow the slow bowlers to settle into any sort of rhythm and as they struggled to maintain discipline, he picked them apart brutally.

At the other end Jackson continued to play the ideal support act, throwing in moments of aggression with largely sedate and risk-free cricket. Chances hardly came by with him and Pujara at the crease and a flat Karnataka just went through the motions. Skipper Shreyas Gopal spread out the field after the opening hour itself but just like Saturday, the ploy failed miserably. It neither forced Pujara and Jackson into errors, who were brilliant with their shot selections, nor contained the steady run-flow.

Karnataka’s problem was the shoddy performance of the spinners — skipper Shreyas, J Suchith, Pavan Deshpande and Pravin Dubey. Yes, the greyish looking pitch didn’t offer much assistance for them, but they could have done a better job than this. None of them could keep an accurate line and length, gifting both Pujara and Jackson freebies consistently. Suchith operated at 3.15 runs per over, Shreyas 4.85, Deshpande 3.63 and Dubey the worst, 5.

Even when Jackson and Pujara got out in quick succession in the second session, Karnataka struggled to build pressure, Mankad having a ball in the final session. Saurashtra finally put an end to Karnataka’s misery with about 45 minutes left in day's play but the visitors knew that would be a hellish period.

Teenage sensation Padikkal didn’t last long, falling to the guile of the seasoned Unadkat. R Samarth and Rohan Kadam survived some anxious moments to live to fight another day but they and the rest of Karnataka know, Monday's battle would indeed be daunting.

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