Irani Trophy 2016-17, Day 4, Review: Pujara, Saha turn tables against Gujarat

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Wriddhiman Saha. (Photo by Jason Oxenham/Getty Images)

With a lead of 358 by the end of day 3, Gujarat looked in total command of the match against ROI. The Ranji Trophy champions were clear favorites to lift the Irani Trophy 2016-17. However, the action that perspired on day 4 surprised everyone. The Rest of India batters turned the tables right against the Ranji champions. Superbly led by skipper Cheteshwar Pujara and counter-attacked by Wriddhiman Saha, the Gujarat team were outplayed on the penultimate day of the match.

Earlier in the day, Gujarat resumed their overnight score of 226/8 with Chirag Gandhi and Hardik Patel at the crease. The last two wickets could not contribute much to the team score and they were eventually bundled out for 246 in their second innings. By dismissing Gaja on 2 last day, spinner Shahbaz Nadeem continued his good form and got another four-wicket haul to his name this season.

379 was the target that the ROI stared at when their openers came in to bat. The target certainly looked beyond par considering the fact that the ROI lineup had tumbled for a mere 206 in their first innings. Amidst such situation, openers Akhil Herwadkar and Abhinav Mukund started the proceedings for ROI in their second innings. They both looked visibly cautious at the crease and saw the new ball through.

Herwadkar, who had scored 48 in the first innings, looked in good touch as he smashed 3 fours and a six in his 40-ball 20. He was the first to be dismissed in the 10th over of the innings off the bowling of Karan Patel. ROI skipper Cheteshwar Pujara was the new man in at the crease. Pujara and Mukund consumed a lot of deliveries in the first session of the play. The skipper, however, lost the support of Mukund thereafter.

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Hardik Patel provided the breakthrough for Gujarat as he dismissed Mukund on 19 (43). A couple of overs later, Karun Nair tried to play across the line to Hardik Patel and ended up seeing his stumps shattered. Manoj Tiwary’s poor game continued in the second innings as well and he perished four overs later. At 63/4, things looked grim for the Rest of India.

Wriddhiman Saha joined the skipper in the crisis situation. Saha and Pujara then led an exceptional fight back in the match. The two Indian internationals took their time to settle in and then played a few aggressive shots too. Saha, in particular, looked to accelerate every now and then. It was only a matter of time that both players notched up their respective half centuries.

Towards the fag end of the day, Saha managed to outscore his skipper and went on to score a magnificent ton in the trying conditions. Saha looked to get on the fifth gear from thereon. By the end of the day, the two veteran batsmen had managed to put on an unbeaten 203 runs stand for the 4th wicket. Rest of India finished on 266/4 at the stumps on day 4.

Wriddhiman Saha was the star of the show with his unbeaten 123 off 214 balls. His knock was studded with 16 fours and 3 sixes. Skipper Cheteshwar Pujara’s contribution was no less either. The skipper, who had earlier scored 86 in the first innings, remained unbeaten on 83 off 181 deliveries with 10 fours to his name. For the Gujarat team, Hardik Patel was the pick of the bowlers with 2/59 to his name on the day. ROI now need 113 more runs to notch up a brilliant turnaround win.

Brief Scores:

Gujarat: 358/10 (Gandhi 169, Juneja 47, Kaul 5/86, Pankaj 4/104)

ROI: 226/10 (Pujara 86, Herwadkar 48, Gaja 4/60, Hardik 3/79)

Gujarat: 246/10 (Panchal 73, Gandhi 70, Nadeem 4/64, Kaul 3/70)

ROI: 266/4 (Saha 123*, Pujara 83*, Hardik 2/59)

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