India skipper Rohit Sharma might have refused to shut the doors on Cheteshwar Pujara last month but the Saurashtra veteran did not help his cause by getting out cheaply in a Group A Ranji Trophy match against Maharashtra on Friday. Maharashtra were tottering at 116/7, squandering the advantage of bowling out Saurashtra for 202, as 17 wickets fell on an extremely productive first day for bowlers.
Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Unadkat won the toss and opted to bat first but his decision backfired as the team slipped to 23/3 in no time. Pujara, the 36-year-old seasoned campaigner with 103 Tests and 261 First-Class matches under his belt, walked in at the fall of Vishvaraj Jadeja, but all he could manage was three runs in 16 balls.
Left-arm spinner Hitesh Walunj, who was the day’s most successful bowler with excellent figures of 6/93 in 26 overs, got rid of the game’s most high-profile player when he trapped Pujara in front of the wicket, leaving Saurashtra in a precarious position pretty early into the match.
The out-of-favour Pujara was not considered for the ongoing five-match Test series against England at home, with the national selectors preferring new faces instead.
During an interaction with scribes ahead of the series against England, India captain Rohit, however, refused to believe that Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s days were over in the team’s Test setup.
Arpit Vasavada (14) fell after getting a start and opener Harvik Desai, having reached 25 in 49 balls, followed his other colleagues to the dressing room to continue Saurashtra’s woes.
Joining forces at 54/5, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (72 off 107 balls) and Prerak Mankad (56 off 80) added 118 invaluable runs for the sixth wicket to give Saurashtra’s total a semblance of respectability.
Considering the state of the match, their partnership could prove to be vital to the final outcome. Besides Walunj, off-spinner Taranjitsingh Dhillon was among wickets for Maharashtra and ended with impressive figures of 4/54 in 17.1 overs.
After bailing his team with the bat, Jadeja returned to torment Maharasthra with his left-arm spin, snaring four wickets for 47 runs to put his team ahead in the game. For Maharashtra, opener Kaushal Tambe made 37 and Ankit Bawne 34.
Maharashtra are trailing by 86 runs at stumps, and will require a special effort from their remaining batters to secure a first-innings lead.
Saurashtra 1st innings: 202 all out in 60.1 overs (Dharmendrasinh Jadeja 72, Perak Mankad 56; Hitesh Walunj 6/93, Taranjitsingh Dhillon 4/54) vs Maharashtra 1st innings: 116/7 in 29 overs (Kaushal Tambe 37; Dharmendrasinh Jadeja 4/47).
In another Group A match in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand were well-placed at 96/1 after bundling out Manipur for 170, to trail by just 74 runs. In Jaipur, Rajasthan, choosing to bat first after winning the toss, were 275/5 at stumps in their first innings. Sent into bat, Services were reeling at 72/7 against Haryana in Rohtak as only 36 overs were bowled due to bad weather.