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Ranji Semis: Pujara Rides Luck with Unbeaten Ton as Saurashtra Eye Final

Cheteshwar Pujara isn't done batting oppositions out of games yet. After batting India to a historic Test series win in Australia recently, Pujara was back doing something similar, taking Saurashtra to within touching distance of a win in their semifinal against Karnataka at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore.

Cricketnext Staff |January 27, 2019, 9:11 PM IST
India will have the option of bringing in Cheteshwar Pujara. (AP Image)

Cheteshwar Pujara isn't done batting oppositions out of games yet. After batting India to a historic Test series win in Australia recently, Pujara was back doing something similar, taking Saurashtra to within touching distance of a win in their semifinal against Karnataka at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore.

Pujara had an equally effective partner in Sheldon Jackson, the duo involved in an unbroken 201-run stand for the fourth wicket as Saurashtra ended the fourth day on 224 for 3 chasing 279. Saurashtra were wobbling at 23 for 3 when the duo got together, and are now 55 runs away from a spot in the final with Pujara on 108 off 216 and Jackson on 90 off 205. Karnataka can take inspiration from the first innings, when Saurashtra slipped from 223 for 4 to 236 all out.

Karnataka will feel they're unfortunate, for they should have had Pujara on 34 when he nicked Vinay Kumar to the keeper, only for the umpire to turn down the appeal. Pujara was also handed a reprieve in the first innings when he nicked Abhimanyu Mithun on 1, but an umpiring error saw Pujara end with 45.

Batting fourth on a pitch that was wearing down gradually was never going to be easy. Saurashtra needed a good start, but they got anything but that. Vinay had Snell Patel and Vishwaraj Jadeja in successive overs for ducks, leaving Saurashtra 3 for 2. It became 23 for 3 when Harvik Desai played a poor shot to Abhimanyu Mithun and was caught at gully.

That's when Pujara's experience came to Saurashtra's rescue. He realised that they had to break the momentum, and got going with a few boundaries. Jackson at the other end took his time to settle in, survived a couple of close lbw appeals, as Saurashtra fought back.

The duo survived some testing spells but took Saurashtra to lunch at 68 for 3. Karnataka should have had Pujara at the other side of the break when Vinay induced an edge, but just like in the first innings, umpire Saiyed Khalid didn't hear it. Vinay was visibly upset and angry, his colleagues were shocked, but there was little they could do. The only thing they could do from there was watch Pujara bat on, and on, and on.

A few balls kicked up, the odd ball kept low. Karnataka threw everything they had at Pujara; Vinay even tried to distract him by stretching his arms while running in, but nothing worked. Pujara was solid in defence - as he was all through the Australia tour - and wore out Karnataka's bowlers.

At the other end, Jackson was playing a crucial knock too. He pulled the short balls with control and used his feet well against the spinners, getting the odd boundary to keep Saurashtra going. The partnership gained strength with time, Karnataka lost their confidence with every passing ball. The second session yielded 60 runs from 25 overs without a wicket.

Pujara got into the 90s with a couple of boundaries off Ronit More and reached his ton, slapping the pacer through covers. A few people in the stands boo-ed, but that wasn't going to shake Pujara. Saurashtra needed 80 more, and Pujara was back to focus on the next ball after a brief celebration. He'll be back focusing for the remaining 55 runs on the final day.

Earlier, Karnataka had started the day on 237/8 and added only two runs in two overs before being bowled out. Dharmendrasingh Jadeja, the left-arm spinner, got Gopal and Ronit More in a space of three balls to end with a five-wicket haul.

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