Cheteshwar Pujara reached new landmarks as he scored his tenth first-class double century to help India Blue to a position of complete command at 693/6 declared. Pujara (256 not out) got ample support from the prolific Sheldon Jackson (134) as the duo put on a 243-run partnership. Pankaj Singh picked up two wickets before the close of play to leave India Red reeling at 16/2 at the close of Day 2 on Sunday in Greater Noida, trailing by a massive 677 behind Gautam Gambhir’s side.
A sizeable crowd turned up in Greater Noida and were in full volume as Pujara refused to let his guard down. However, there were faint hopes of a comeback early in the day for Yuvraj Singh’s side as India Red removed Dinesh Karthik for 55.
Jackson provided a couple of chances early in his innings but India Red failed to grab them. Stuart Binny had the best opportunity as Jackson was caught in two minds with the cross seam keeping slightly low. Binny dived to his left but the chance was put down.
There were no such opportunities from Pujara’s blade as the spinners – Amit Mishra and Kuldeep Yadav – continued to be poor. With a slight puff of dust covering the surface, the slow bowlers had the chance to make inroads. Pitching it short or full, identical to their efforts from the first day, Mishra and Yadav took quite a beating.
There are a scant few who have criticised Pujara in the past for his slow scoring rate. His strike rate read 70, even putting the hard-hitting Jackson to shame. Jackson started skipping down the track once he settled in and used the long handle sparingly, unlike his previous innings which was peppered with plenty of sixes.
Mishra leapt forward to take a fine return catch from Jackson to dismiss him for 134 but India Red’s misery continued through Pujara’s Saurashtra teammate Ravindra Jadeja. The left-hander scored a busy 48 and only departed after Abhinav Mukund had him cramped for room. The ball hit Jadeja’s bat before clipping the stumps and India Blue immediately declared after his dismissal. Pujara, thus became the first double centurion in a pink ball cricket match.
Within three deliveries of India Red coming in to bat, they were left facing an almighty battle to save the match as Pankaj Singh removed Mukund and Sudip Chatterjee off consecutive deliveries. Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh were at the crease at the close of the day.
India Blue 693/6 (Cheteshwar Pujara 256 not out, Sheldon Jackson 134, Gautam Gambhir 94; Amit Mirsha 2/171) lead India Red 16/2 (Shikhar Dhawan 14; Pankaj Singh 2/14) by 677 runs