Bangalore: Riding on a century from discarded Test opener Murali Vijay, Rest of India (ROI) secured a 75-run first-innings lead over Ranji Trophy champions Rajasthan on day two of the Irani Trophy on Saturday.
It was one-way traffic at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, where Vijay forged partnerships of 173 for the opening wicket with Test hopeful Ajinkya Rahane (81) and 153 with India's current Test No. 3 and ROI captain, Cheteshwar Pujara (78) to take his team to an imposing 328 for 2 at stumps.
From an overnight 2 for 0, Vijay and Rahane controlled the morning session to take ROI to 127 for 0 at lunch. Having taken his time in the first couple of overs of the day, Vijay got the runs going with a well-timed boundary to long-off off Deepak Chahar. Rahane followed with a text book cover-drive off left arm-seamer Aniket Choudhary. Soon the pair began punishing the Rajasthan bowlers and did not allow them to settle into any sort of line and length. Both reached their fifties with boundaries towards the deep cover region off medium-pacer Sumit Mathur and offspinner Khatri respectively. ROI scored 125 runs in 33 overs, with Rahane on 60 and Vijay on 58 at lunch.
Post the interval, Rajasthan were given a window of opportunity when Rahane, on 81, threw away his wicket in a needless mix-up with Vijay. However, that brought to the crease Pujara and with it another dominating alliance.
He wasted little time in tucking into a depleted and flagging bowling attack, even hitting part-timer Vineet Saxena for a first-ball six out of the stadium. Vijay reached 99 when he dispatched Khatri for a massive six over deep midwicket and got to his hundred with a single to long-on in the same over. Vijay celebrated the landmark by hitting Gajendra Singh for four and six in the same over, and took consecutive sixes off Khatri a while later.
Pujara crossed fifty with successive fours off Choudhary, and as the shadows lengthened and the fielders spread back it was all too evident that Rajasthan had been sapped of their energy. On the verge of stumps, a loose drive outside off stump did for Pujara and gave Choudhury a wicket (326 for 2). But the sight of S Badrinath striding to the crease while determinately shadow-practicing the forward press was an indication that life was not about to get any easier for Rajasthan.