Murali Vijay’s commanding 155 helped India ‘B’ to a strong 356 for three in 50 overs against India ‘A’ in the final of the Challenger Series for the N.K.P. Salve Trophy here on Tuesday evening.

Fresh after his Irani Cup double century against Rajasthan at Bangalore last week, the Tamil Nadu right hander struck copy-book shots on his way to a career high score in limited over matches.

There was the odd blemish that almost removed him from the middle earlier on in his innings, but Manish Pandey was too far inside the circle at cover to convert the chance.

In the absence of S. Anirrudha, who severely fractured his right shoulder while falling near the line to stop a ball from racing to the fence on Sunday, Vijay took the responsibility of tutoring Baba Aparajith during their 68-run opening wicket stand that laid a solid foundation on a featherbed used for the fourth match in a row.

Pujara does well

As if obliged to take a heavy responsibility every time he steps on the field here at Khanderi, Pujara played his part in the consolidation process and even came close to notching up a third consecutive century before he mistimed a horizontal bat shot and spooned a catch to Yusuf Pathan at mid-on.

Vijay and Pujara literally toyed with the India ‘A’ bowling that had bowlers like seamers Ishant Sharma, Abhimanyu Mithun and Parvinder Awana, and spinners in Pragyan Ojha and Yusuf Pathan. In between Robin Uthappa sent down stuff that cost him 26 runs in three overs.

Ishant suffers

Ishant had bowled well within himself in the opening league match against Bengal where he captured four wickets. He was then rested for the second match against India ‘B’ when he ought to have played to be in rhythm. He suffered on account of that and was punished for 58 in a wicket-less spell of nine overs.

Both Vijay and Pujara stroked the ball beautifully of the front and back foot, split the fielders and cleared the field to pick up 26 fours together.

Vijay clouted the ball five times over the line for the run rate to be consistently maintained at six an over. The batting powerplay (36-40) produced 59 runs and this marked the real acceleration phase.

Once Pujara departed, Vijay neared the tournament best score of 158 not out by his captain, but holed out a catch to Ishant at long off.

There was no respite though for India ‘A’ as Kedar Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja played bold cricket to make 79 runs for the unbeaten fourth wicket.

The scores: India ‘B’: B. Aparajith c Rahane b Ojha 18 (32b, 2x4), M. Vijay c Ishant b Mithun 155 (121b, 18x4, 5x6), C. Pujara c Yusuf b Awana 79 (80b, 8x4), K. Jadhav (not out) 60 (42b, 6x4, 2x6), R. Jadeja (not out) 25 (25b); Extras (b-4, lb-1, w-14): 19; Total (for 3 wkts in 50 overs): 356.

Fall of wickets: 1-68, 2-260, 3-277.

India ‘A’ bowling: Ishant 9-0-58-0, Mithun 10-0-79-1, Ojha 12-2-64-1, Awana 10-0-79-1, Uthappa 3-0-26-0, Yusuf 6-0-45-0.

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