Cheteshwar Pujara warmed up for India’s Test series against Sri Lanka with another century in the fifth round of the Ranji Trophy 2017-18, powering Saurashtra to a strong position along with Snell Patel’s maiden first-class ton on Thursday (November 9). In the other Group B games, tons from Shubham Khajuria and Punit Bisht helped Jammu and Kashmir to the driver’s seat against Jharkhand, while Rajasthan’s pacers ran through Haryana in Lahli.
Cheteshwar Pujara followed up his record-breaking double-century against Jharkhand with an unbeaten century that, along with Snell Patel’s unbeaten maiden first-class century, propelled Saurashtra to command at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
By the end of the day, the hosts were 311 for 1, Robin Uthappa the only man dismissed. Pujara was unbeaten on 115 off 188 balls with 15 fours while Snell was 156 off 277 balls with 21 fours.
Saurashtra opted to bat first and got off to a good start with Uthappa and Snell beginning strongly. They added 59 for the opening wicket before the former fell, caught behind off Piyush Chawla for a 75-ball 30. That would be the only time Parthiv Patel’s men celebrated all day.
Pujara, the Saurashtra captain, joined the opener and added an unbroken 252 for the second wicket. The pair – vastly different in experience – scored at identical rates as Gujarat struggled to contain or pick wickets. Parthiv tried six bowlers without much luck, as three of them conceded at more than 3.5 runs an over.
Both Saurashtra and Gujarat have three wins each from as many games, with Saurashtra one point ahead (20, as opposed to Gujarat’s 19) in the table.
Centuries from Shubham Khajuria and Punit Bisht, and a vital unbeaten half-century from Owais Shah, helped J&K reach a strong position despite being in precarious positions at various junctures at the Keenan Stadium.
At stumps, J&K were 357 for 6, with Bisht unbeaten on 101 and Shah on 79. Khajuria, the opener, had guided the top order with 101 but J&K were still reduced to 208 for 6, before Bisht and Shah put on a rescue act. The two were involved in an unbroken 149-run stand for the seventh wicket off just 203 balls to ensure Jharkhand didn’t gain the advantage.
Opting to bat, J&K made a solid start with Ahmed Banday, the opener, and Bandeep Singh, the No. 3, scoring 26 each to go with Khajuria’s strong beginning. However, they suffered a middle-order collapse and went from 111 for 1 to 150 for 5 in less than ten overs. Khajuria held strong at one end and took them past 200, going past his first century of the season. Khajuria’s 101 came off 153 balls and saw 10 fours and four sixes.
When Khajuria fell in the 57th over, J&K seemed in trouble. But from there, Bisht, the wicketkeeper-batsman, and Shah rebuilt in contrasting styles. While Bisht was more aggressive, taking only 110 balls for his 101 which saw 18 fours, Shah was sedate and took 142 deliveries.
Sunny Gupta, the offspinner, and Sonu Singh, the left-arm spinner, picked up two wickets apiece for Jharkhand.
J&K have lost three of their four matches and are in the penultimate spot in the table while Jharkhand are two places above them, with eight points from four matches.
Only 44 overs were possible due to bad light at the Chaudhry Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium but that was enough for Rajasthan to make dents in Haryana’s batting line-up.
By the time play was called off, Haryana were reduced to 99 for 7 with Rohit Sharma, the wicketkeeper-batsman, and Harshal Patel, battling on. Pankaj Singh (3 for 25) and Aniket Choudhary (2 for 13) did the bulk of the damage as Haryana struggled against Rajasthan’s pace attack.
Rajasthan opted to field and got off to a good start with Choudhary dismissing both openers with just ten runs on board. Chaitanya Bishnoi, the No. 3, followed soon for a 36-ball eight to leave Haryana on 34 for 3. Rajat Paliwal (32) and Shivam Chauhan (28) added 42 for the fourth wicket – the highest stand of the innings so far – before Pankaj dismissed both off successive overs. The pacer then had Amit Mishra, the Haryana captain, as the hosts were never allowed back in the game.
Haryana have lost all three matches so far and are at the bottom of the table while Rajasthan have four points from three games.