Chirag Gandhi marked Gujarat’s first-ever Irani Cup game with a fighting hundred as his team struggled to answer critics questioning its credentials as India’s best domestic side.
During a gripping day’s play, Gandhi’s maiden first-class century, an unbeaten 136 (159 balls, 18 four and one six), helped his team finish on 300 for eight after the batsmen were tested by the Rest of India pacers Pankaj Singh and Siddarth Kaul.
Pankaj did the damage with the new ball on a lively wicket, removing the openers and then striking with the second new ball to claim three wickets. Kaul was more incisive as the ball lost its shine and picked up four wickets.
Gandhi is used to playing the supporting role, but with his team in trouble at 82 for four on Friday, he lifted his game to rescue it.
Scrappy at the start, Gandhi soon settled into a rhythm and took the attack to the opposition, sharing an entertaining 109-run partnership for the fifth-wicket with Manprit Juneja (47 runs).
The only chance the No 6 batsman offered was when he lofted Shahbaz Nadeem straight back, but it was hit so firmly that the bowler didn’t have time to react. It was one of the 12 fours he smashed to reach his century.
The rest of the Gujarat batsmen were left to rue the wasted opportunity, having got the chance to bat first on a wicket offering bounce and good value for shots. But as is the case with most Indian batsmen, they struggled against the moving ball.
Even though Pankaj and Kaul were bowling in the 120s, they swung the ball to expose the chinks. Lack of footwork and poor judgment of the off-stump proved to be the batsmen’s undoing.
Parthiv’s luck runs out
All eyes were on captain Parthiv Patel after his heroic showing in the Ranji Trophy final, where he single-handedly led Gujarat to their maiden title. Another good showing here would have shut the door on Rest of India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, his competitor for India job.
However, luck deserted Parthiv at the Brabourne Stadium. In the Ranji final at Indore, during his second innings hundred, all inside edges ran to the boundary. But here, the first one crashed into the stumps. Kaul was the lucky bowler, and the man standing behind the wickets, Saha, would have heaved a sigh of relief. Saha was at his best with the gloves, pouching two clean catches.