Bowlers are familiar with Cheteshwar Pujara’s desire to amass runs. The run-machine from Saurashtra compiled his second century in a row. His unbeaten 111, Pujara’s 33rd first-class century, placed India Blue at 362 for three on the opening day of the Duleep Trophy final at the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex here on Saturday.
Pujara’s batting matched the effort by Gautam Gambhir. With a new stance and greater resolve to come back into national reckoning, the Delhi left-hander took another step to chart his course this season when he hit an impressive 94.
Making the best of use of his decision to bat first, Gambhir batted with admirable composure to give the innings a solid start. His partners in the team’s domination over India Red were Mayank Agarwal (57) and Pujara even as Rohit Sharma wasted an opportunity to make a big score after having begun with the flourish that marks his game.
The pitch played slow and the bounce was low too. But there was entertainment for the 3000-odd spectators who watched the latter part of the contest. The administrators have placed faith in the pink-ball floodlit cricket bringing fans to the venues and this was an encouraging development indeed.
Four innings have fetched Gambhir 320 runs at an average of 80 in this tournament. His sequence of 77, 90, 59 and 94 demonstrate his form and approach to the job. He slipped into his stroke-making style with ease today, picking his boundaries off leg-spinner Amit Mishra and left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
The left-hander took six boundaries off Mishra but fell to Yadav when he dragged the ball on to his stumps. The ball had stayed low to induce the false shot from Gambhir.
Agarwal, with an aggregate of 368 in this tournament, enjoyed his stay in the middle, looking to play more shots than his partner. He was let off by keeper Ankush Bains off Kuldeep on 37 and added another 20 runs before driving the ball to cover where Shikhar Dhawan took a fine low catch.
Pujara continued with his relentless run-gathering exercise and achieved the distinction of completing 10000 runs in first class cricket with a cover drive off Mishra that took his score to 19.
India Blue — 1st innings: Mayank Agarwal c Dhawan b Binny 57 (107b, 7x4), Gautam Gambhir b Yadav 94 (145b, 8x4), Cheteshwar Pujara (batting) 111 (164b, 15x4), Rohit Sharma c Dhawan b Mishra 30 (57b, 4x4), Dinesh Karthik (batting) 55 (68b, 8x4); Extras (b-7, lb-5, w-2, nb-1): 15; Total (for three wkts. in 90 overs): 362.
Fall of wickets: 1-144, 2-178, 3-242.
India Red bowling: Pradeep Sangwan 13-1-37-0, Nathu Singh 10-0-37-0, Amit Mishra 23-1-103-1, Stuart Binny 13-2-54-1, Kuldeep Yadav 23-2-97-1, Gurkeerat Mann 5-0-13-0, Yuvraj Singh 3-0-9-0.
Toss: India Blue.