Cheteshwar Pujara puts Sourashtra in a position of strength against Gujarat
CHENNAI: Wicketkeeper-batsman K.H. Gopinath crafted a responsible, unbeaten century to give TNCA XI the reins of its two-day semifinal match against Karnataka in the all-India Buchi Babu cricket tournament here at the Pachaiyappa’s ‘A’ ground on Sunday.
Walking in to bat with his team on 106 for four in the 40th over after winning the toss, Gopinath handled both the pressure of the situation and the stifling heat with aplomb. The 20-year-old struck 11 fours and two sixes in his 157-ball 121 n.o., as TNCA scored 328 for nine in its allotted 90 overs.
Karnataka — without Rahul Dravid, who returned to Bangalore for personal reasons — faces the challenge of overhauling TNCA’s total on Monday for a spot in the final.
Gopinath was part of two crucial partnerships that helped TNCA take control of the middle session. He added 90 for the fifth wicket with the left-handed V. Maaruthi Raghav (50, 97b, 7x4), and 75 for the sixth with R. Ashwin (31). Gopinath also guided the lower-order through the last phase of the innings, gathering useful runs.
A feature of Gopinath’s innings was his footwork against Karnataka’s spinners, who were employed for a majority of the innings. He used the depth of the crease to cut behind point, having shortened the length by advancing down the track and driving. The 20-year-old Maaruthi Raghav gave Gopinath admirable company.
Earlier in the day, Ra. Aravind (38) and R. Prasanna (47) put on 68 for the second wicket after captain M. Vijay was dismissed by left-arm seamer S. Aravind (two for 58). For Karnataka, off-spinner Sunil Raju picked up two for 101, while left-arm spinner C. Ragahavendra finished with three for 81.
The promise in Cheteshwar Pujara’s batting manifested during his 130 (206b, 11x4, 1x6) in the other semifinal at the CPT-IP ground.
Pujara’s offence stems from a strong defence and he stroked fluently on both sides of the wicket.
Pujara’s effort and a well-made 93 (196b, 8x4) by Ravindra Jadeja helped Sourashtra XI, which elected to bat, reach a competitive 325 for six in the allotted 90 overs against Gujarat XI. The duo added 199 runs in 59.4 overs for the third wicket weathering a hot afternoon and a slow, dusty, surface.
The surface could offer more purchase for the spinners on day two. On Sunday, left-arm spinner Bishwajit Solanki scalped four without appearing to be threatening.
Off-spinner Mohnish Parmar, whose action has been a subject of debate, toiled hard for meagre returns — a lone wicket.
Paceman Siddarth Trivedi, conditions loaded against him, was steady at best. Skipper Parthiv Patel rung in the changes, but Pujara and Jadeja thwarted Gujarat’s plans during a crucial stage.
When Pujara left — taken at long-off off Solanki — he had taken Sourashtra XI to a position from where it could apply some pressure on its opponent. Jadeja, swinging across a Solanki delivery, lost his leg stump to miss a hundred.
For Gujarat XI, much hinges on a sound start on the chase.
TNCA XI 328 for nine in 90 overs (R. Prasanna 47, V. Maaruthi Raghav 50, K.H. Gopinath 121 n.o.) vs. Karnataka.
Sourashtra XI 325 for six in 90 overs (Sagar Jogiyani 41, Cheteshwar Pujara 130, Ravindra Jadeja 93, Bishwajit Solanki four for 77) vs. Gujarat XI.