A marathon partnership between Arpit Vasavada and Cheteshwar Pujara turned the tide and put Saurashtra on top in the final of the Ranji Trophy 2019-20 season at Rajkot. While the in-form Vasavada completed his second century in as many innings, Pujara battled hard for a half-century.
At stumps on a slow-moving day at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, the tide has turned significantly in favour of the hosts. The blow to Pujara — retiring hurt due to his illness — and the late strike were all put behind easily as Vasavada and Pujara wore out the Bengal bowlers for more than two sessions. From behind the eight ball at the start, the duo took Saurashtra to a formidable position by the time play entered the final hour on the day.
Vasavada, the hero of the semi-final, notched up his second century, hitting 11 fours in his 287-ball stay at the crease, while Pujara was solid at the other end. The India no.3 brought up his 60th First-Class half-century with five fours.
After going wicketless in the first two sessions, Shahbaz Ahmed finally had the centurion stumped by Wriddhiman Saha with one that didn’t turn to end a 157-run stand. After that, Mukesh Kumar trapped Pujara — who fell for 66 from 237 balls — and Prerak Mankad in front in quick succession, to reduce the hosts to 364 for eight, but Chirag Jani and DA Jadeja batted through to stumps as Saurashtra reached 384.
With a score in the vicinity of 400 in the first bout, Saurashtra are certainly in the driving seat. Whether Bengal can make a comeback into the contest, with the batting expected to get tougher on this track remains to be seen.
Brief scores: Saurashtra 384/8 in 160 overs (Arpit Vasavada 106, Cheteshwar Pujara 66; Akash Deep 3-77) vs Bengal.