Cheteshwar Pujara likes to make big scores while Gautam Gambhir, under prevailing circumstances, needs to make them. Both batsmen would have left the KSCA stadium reasonably satisfied on Thursday.
Pujara struck an unbeaten 139 and Gambhir a measured 123 as India ‘A’ marched towards an imposing total to seize complete control of this final four-day match with West Indies ‘A’.
The pair added 207 for the second wicket, batting the opponent, potentially, out of the contest.
At close of play on the second day, India ‘A’ was 66 ahead of the visitor’s 268 with seven wickets in hand.
Gambhir and Pujara were united nine deliveries into the day, at the departure of V.A. Jagadeesh. Gambhir appeared uncertain at first facing Miguel Cummins but his diffidence soon vanished amidst a string of nudges and dabs to the boundary. Two successive late cuts off Ashley Nurse took him past fifty before the same player shelled a hard chance at second slip moments later.
Pujara, meanwhile, raised his half-century shortly after lunch, cutting and flicking Assad Fudadin to the ropes in the same over. While the Saurashtra batsman motored on, Gambhir turned careful in the afternoon, striking not one boundary between lunch and tea. His 35th century in first-class cricket was preceded by a similar caution as he was stuck on 99 for eight deliveries.
The crowds had been clamouring all day for Virender Sehwag, and Gambhir’s exit — bowled trying to cut the part-time spin of Narsingh Deonarine off the back-foot — granted them their wish. Sehwag made a hasty 38 (49b), a knock that included the game’s first six, before reaching out in front to loft the ball and handing a simple catch on the leg-side.
At the other end, Pujara cantered beyond his hundred, unleashing a number of straight drives.
He returned to the dressing room happy with his effort and to the news of another number four’s impending retirement.
The scores: West Indies ‘A’ — 1st innings: 268.
India ‘A’ — 1st innings: V.A. Jagadeesh b Delorn Johnson 16 (40b, 1x4), Gautam Gambhir b Deonarine 123 (236b, 11x4), Cheteshwar Pujara (batting) 139 (228b, 15x4), Virender Sehwag c Nurse b Miller 38 (49b, 2x4, 1x6), Abhishek Nayar (batting) 10 (18b); Extras (lb-5, nb-1, w-2): 8; Total (for three wkts. in 95 overs): 334.
Fall of wickets: 1-35 (Jagadeesh), 2-242 (Gambhir), 3-317 (Sehwag).
West Indies ‘A’ bowling: Miguel Cummins 17-4-51-0, Delorn Johnson 15-3-50-1, Jonathan Carter 6-1-22-0, Nikita Miller 23-3-70-1, Ashley Nurse 16-1-57-0, Assad Fudadin 8-1-28-0, Narsingh Deonarine 9-1-41-1, Kraigg Brathwaite 1-0-10-0.