India A v WI A, 3rd unofficial Test, Hubli, 2nd day October 10, 2013

Pujara, Gambhir put India A ahead


India A 334 for 3 (Pujara 139*, Gambhir 123) lead West Indies A 268 by 66 runs

It was a distracting sort of day in Hubli. Even before Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement, taking the fizz out of the game, there was enough to sidetrack you. West Indies A used four wicketkeepers - one of them not even part of their XI, but allowed on humanitarian grounds, - on two separate occasions bees invaded the field forcing the players to lie prone for minutes, a batsman was hit-wicket and bowled to the same delivery, and the goods train kept honking its horns on the nearby railway track. Gautam Gambhir, though, managed to put all that aside, concentrated hard, got lucky when the concentration broke on the rare occasion, and scored his third first-class century of the year. He has scored only three since January 2010, which is why he finds himself out of the Test side.

With Gambhir, for a majority of the innings, was a man with whom he has been discussing batting in the lead-up to the match, Cheteshwar Pujara. The two put on 207 for the second wicket to put India A in a position from where they can push for a win. At the end of the second day, they led West Indies A by 66 runs with seven wickets in hand. While Pujara remained unbeaten on 139, Virender Sehwag fell for a middling 38 after he had begun well and had the dispirited West Indies A attack at his mercy.

If that soft dismissal wasn't enough for Sehwag, he walked back to the news that his good friend, ODI opening partner, mentor and team-mate of 93 Tests, had retired. His reaction was a stunned "Oh, he is retiring?"

Gambhir had already been dismissed by then. His century was not quite a scratchy effort, but it had periods where the conviction was missing. It isn't entirely unexpected of a batsman fighting to come back to form. There were the reassuring off-drives and late cuts, and the milking of the spinners to go with it. Along the way he was helped by the generous fielding: 10 overthrows came his way to go with a dropped chance.

Gambhir's day began with two plays-and-misses in the first over, but he saw off the new ball well. Even during the spells when boundaries didn't come regularly, he didn't go out of his way looking for them. He left well on length, and reacted well to the fuller change-up deliveries, either driving them down the ground or clipping them to leg.

The first blip in concentration came in the last over before lunch when Gambhir went driving at a wide delivery, but was dropped at second slip by Ashley Nurse. He was 56 then. Soon after lunch other elements would test his concentration. In the first over after the interval, wicketkeeper Jahmar Hamilton hurt his finger, handing the gloves over to Jonathan Carter, who looked pretty uncomfortable but there was no better option around. Soon Carter hurt his finger too, and Nurse had to don the gloves. While that was happening, bees attacked the field. The crowd went wild. Minutes were wasted, and the batsmen wondered what was going on.

By the time Nurse took a knock himself, the match referee had allowed West Indies A to use the specialist wicketkeeper Chadwick Walton, who had sat out this game. Even as the surreal session went ahead, the odd delivery would jump out of nowhere. Gambhir was 85 when he tried his dab to third man, but was beaten by a stinger from Delorn Johnson.

When Gambhir was 93, the tea break arrived. After the break he went from 93 to 99 without fuss, but grew awfully nervous on one run short of the hundred. The first two balls on 99 went well, but the next six were excruciating even as the 15,000 spectators cheered him on. He tried to rock back and cut, he tried to step out and loft, on the odd occasion he began to run after hitting straight, and also survived a loud lbw shout when he played Nurse across the line.

Finally Nurse provided him a long hop, which Gambhir pulled in the air - not high enough to go over the head of a fielder - but in the gap between the two midwickets placed for him. Gambhir couldn't carry on for much longer. When he went back to cut Narsingh Deonarine, he went too deep into the crease, the bat came down on the middle stump, after which the ball hit the stumps.

Gambhir was given out bowled. Just like "bowled" takes precedence even though a decision against a batsman for any other method of dismissal is justified, the Tendulkar news was bound to take precedence.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 11, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    VA Jagadeesh had a splendid last Ranji season and I believe was among the top 3 batsmen in last season. He also had a pretty good List A season, and is in extremely good form. No wonder he is selected and fired right away with the 91 that he scored against NZ A, and here he is again with a fighting 86. Having been in domestic circuit for a long time, he should be having a very good mature head on his shoulders. 2nd tested against W indies his 86 was the foundation, but we unable to dominate. Jaggu, who is yet to get chances in tours with IND A abroad also in Coming series against Windies.

  • Dummy4 on October 11, 2013, 9:29 GMT

    strange as it may sound gambhir is still one of the best technically top three batters in the indian side.....we desperately need him in SA.murali vijay is no match for him.pitch it up and swing it ,m vijay will be back in the pavilion in ten balls.SO MANY PEOPLE SING SWANSONGS OF A KOHLI,YUVRAJ,RAHANE,Vijay, latter two ipl bullies so wonder why everyone has a problem with gambhir.MAY BE DHONI DOES LIKE HIS BLUNT TRUTHFUL ATTITUDE.....GAMBHIR IS INDIAN FUTURE ,PAST AND PRESNT IN OPENING....

  • James on October 11, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    I suppose Pujara wants to kill any debates about his form or his hold on the No. 3 spot with this innings. Which makes a few cricketers as certainties for the test team. Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli, Dhoni, Bhubaneswar Kumar are certainties right now. That makes six positions up for grabs. One openers position- contenders Gambhir, Vijay, Rohit Sharma; One or two middle order slots - contenders - Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Nayar; One or no Allrounder- Contenders- Jadeja, Nayar; 3 Bowlers - contenders- Zaheer, Yadav, Shami, Jadeja, Ashwin, Mishra.

  • sam on October 11, 2013, 5:46 GMT

    @prasanna_79 Vijay Zol has only played a couple of first class matches. And all his success has come at U-19 level. How can you compare that with first class cricket? People like you think that batting on a square turner is easier than batting on a green seaming pitch. Both are equally difficult. Juneja played two brilliant innings against two good spinners of West Indies on a absolute dust-bowl (on day 3 and day 4). No other batsman looked any where near his class. Juneja I think will become a very good test batsman (I think Pujara will too, Kohli looses concentration way too often after reaching a century, so I have my doubts about him though he has all the talent).

  • Android on October 11, 2013, 3:45 GMT

    pujara has always been an outstanding test talent.and gambhir needed a century to get his broken strings back

  • VENKATESA on October 11, 2013, 3:42 GMT

    Though Gambhir scoring some runs is a good news for him.., i would personally have preferred him to concentrate on county cricket a little more & fight it out in England against swing & seam bowlers rather than playing in India.. A good performance there would not only have boosted his confidence to sky levels..,but also would have enabled the selectors to judge him better..He is a good player against spinners anyway,so he should either have been selected against SA A in SA or should have been allowed to continue playing in ENG rather than playing in India..Scoring runs in India for an experienced player like Gambhir/Sehwag is of little merit i would think.. Also,if the selector feels whichever youngster is talented he should be made to play in atleast 2,3 overseas trips with Ind A before considering him for test selection..,Ex : Vijay Zol (performed well in Aus n NZ) ,should be higher in the pecking order than juneja,who is yet to get chances in tours with IND A abroad..

  • sam on October 11, 2013, 3:39 GMT

    I must add that even though I watch limited overs cricket, except for ICC tournaments I really don't care for them. I care for only the test team and I am such a passionate supporter of test cricket in general (and Indian test team in particular) that if India loses a test match that day becomes a bad one for me. I love to watch any test match if it is enticing (can be between any two nations I don't care). The only thing that bores me is if there is a flat road of a pitch and 500 meets 600 and we don't even get two completed innings (which I might add happens quite often in Asia).

  • Bhalchandra on October 11, 2013, 3:32 GMT

    Pujara has proved that he is India No. 3 Batsman for long time. He has scored heavily since his comeback from injury. Though many will disagree but I believe in Rohit Sharma and he is my future No. 4 batsman for India. Virat is fixed at 5 because he has shown Laxman-like skills in his ODI batting (winning matches that are almost lost). Shikhar is first opener. I want Gambhir to open with him. I wish that Yuvraj plays extremely well in this odi series and is given a chance to play for tests. if not for No. 6 Dhoni should promote himself. No. 7 is of Sir. with Ashwin, Bhuvi, Yadav, Ojha to follow.

  • sam on October 11, 2013, 2:37 GMT

    @AsherCA We have Manpreet Juneja who is a lot more compact than the flashy Rohit Sharma. And he has an appetite for scoring big ones like Pujara. Also Ravindra Jadeja is good (in fact he is great) only on turning pitches. He is going to be murdered on true pitches. His batting against quality pace bowling is tailender like. So no point in playing him outside sub-continent and West Indies (and a couple of venues in SA, England and Australia if the pitches are dry).

  • Kah on October 11, 2013, 1:40 GMT

    Great! India needs Gauti at no. 3 in ODI's