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Cheteshwar Pujara’s Irani Cup ton good practice ahead of Australia Tests

Cheteshwar Pujara’s unbeaten hundred for Rest of India may have been overshadowed by Wriddhiman Saha double but it also allowed him to spend time in the middle before a crucial Test series.

cricket Updated: Jan 24, 2017 17:56 IST
Cheteshwar Pujara’s unbeaten 116 was put to shade by Wriddhiman Saha’s 203 in the Irani Cup final but there is no doubt it helped him get good match practice ahead of the Test series against Australia in February.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s unbeaten 116 was put to shade by Wriddhiman Saha’s 203 in the Irani Cup final but there is no doubt it helped him get good match practice ahead of the Test series against Australia in February. (PTI)

Being on trial, there can’t be a better response than lifting your team from a position of 63/four to successfully chasing down a target of 379. That’s what Wriddhiman Saha achieved during the Irani Cup match with a splendid unbeaten double hundred to power Rest of India home with six wickets to spare against Gujarat.

Deserving of equal credit was Cheteshwar Pujara, the RoI skipper, who contributed an unbeaten 116 to the mammoth partnership of 316 runs. Pujara admitted at one point when his team had lost four quick wickets, he too had doubts over the task at hand.

He however gave all credit to Saha for coming up with a strategy which broke the pressure built by the Gujarat bowlers. “This is one of the best knocks of his (Saha). It was one of the best innings I have seen in domestic cricket and the longest partnership we have had. After a couple of overs he felt he had to take on the bowlers and even I felt the same,” said Pujara after leading Rest’s stunning comeback.

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“We wanted to unsettle their line and length. They don’t have pace - only medium pace - and both of us have faced fast bowlers at 140 km an hour. To counter them we had to come up with a plan. Wridhi came up with that and I supported him,” said Pujara.

RoI had started the final day on 266/4, requiring 113 runs to beat Gujarat. The two made easy work of it and finished the job with an hour to go for lunch. They perfectly complemented each other’s game – with Saha playing the aggressor and Pujara providing calm assurance form the other side.

“Wridhhiman’s knock was crucial after we lost four wickets. The way he started approaching the innings was fantastic. After a couple of overs he told me ‘I am going to take on the bowlers’. I said yes. We needed someone to take on the bowlers and unsettle them. That’s what he started doing. At the other end I was there to hold up the innings, playing the ball on merit. Things did work out for us,” said Pujara.

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“To chase 370 was not easy, (especially). At one stage I felt we probably will lose this game. The moment we had the partnership going we saw their bowlers were slightly dropping their shoulders and not up there. Even Parthiv Patel, at times, was getting frustrated and once the ball was old. Wriddhiman kept going and it was easier for me to bat and support him.”

Being the last domestic first-class match before the Test series against Australia, it was also invaluable match practice for Pujara and Saha. Pujara said being tested to the fullest by the Gujarat team, it was an ideal preparation for Tests.

“It does not matter the kind of bowlers you are facing at the situation we were in, four wickets down for 60-70 odd. You are under pressure whether you have played so many matches or not. You need to see your team throughout the difficult phase and it was certainly an ideal preparation for the (upcoming) Test matches.