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That man Pujara again!

india Updated: Dec 29, 2008 23:22 IST
Bivabasu Kumar

Saurashtra showed incredible self-belief and stunned Karnataka on the final day of their encounter at the Brabourne Stadium to become the most unlikely team to make the Ranji quarterfinals. Pegged at 10 for two, Saurashtra came from behind to beat Karnataka by five wickets and set up a semifinal clash against Mumbai in a bid for their maiden Ranji elite title.

It is the not too often that a team scales a 300-plus target to win a game on the final day of a Ranji tie. Though teams like Assam, Rajasthan, Bengal, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Hyderabad have done it in the past, Saurashtra's was altogether a different ball game. The quality of cricket was consistently high and the competitive spirit did not dip till the last needed run was scored.

Cheteshwar Pujara (112 not out) rose to his reputation of scoring big runs with a well-timed hundred and the veteran Sitanshu Kotak (87) showed that he still has the game to make a difference when it mattered.

Losing BM Chauhan early didn't hinder Saurashtra's recovery as the batsmen who followed played the roles demanded of them. Pujara played the sheet anchor's role and Kotak stepped out of his comfort zone to provide the early momentum. The duo propelled Saurashtra to 111 for 3 at lunch after 34 overs and put on 163 for the fourth wicket. The couple looked to finish the game but C Raghu broke the partnership by getting Kotak in the 54th over.

To keep the momentum going, Ravindra Jadeja (55) was promoted to No. 5 and the southpaw didn’t disappoint. Jadeja scored at a brisk pace and sailed to 37 at tea , pushing Saurashtra to 221 for 4 after 61 overs.

Jadeja not only accelerated the score with his power play, but numbed the Karnataka bowlers forcing Robin Uthappa to frantically rotate them. The all-rounder hooked and pulled without inhibition and was eventually felled when he miscued a shot in the 67th over off Raghu. But he had reached his half-century by then and had stitched together 77 runs off just 78 balls in the fifth wicket partnership. Jaydev Shah next joined in the loot and literally toyed with the Karnataka bowlers to score an unbeaten 43. Pujara and Shah sealed the deal, getting their team past the finish line.

Scores Kar: 308 & 208; Sau: 189 & 327: Pathak c Naidu b Vinay 0, Chauhan c Akhil b Vinay 6, Makvana c Naidu b Vinay 0, Kotak c & b Raghu 87, Pujara 112*, Jadeja c Gautam b Raghu 55, Shah 55*; Extras (b 4, lb 8) 12; Total (for 5 wkts) 327; FoW: 1-4, 2-4, 3-13, 4-176, 5-253; Bowling: Vinay 20-1-84-3, Aravind 11-4-34-0, Aiyappa 7-1-37-0, Joshi 27-6-84-0, Akhil 3-1-10-0, Raghu 11-1-66-2