Chawla makes statement with the bat
As Suresh Raina and Parvinder Singh were batting in the nets after the third day's play of Uttar Pradesh's Ranji Trophy encounter, Piyush Chawla, who had figures of 3 for 233 off 51 overs on his return to top-flight cricket after a six-week layoff due to a thumb injury, was expressing his displeasure over Maharashtra's negative tactics and the featherbed of a pitch.
Suddenly, he said, "Let me pad up and have a few hits in the nets." In no time, he replaced Raina in the nets and for the next fifteen minutes, consistently sent the ball flying into the stands. One sensed that not only was he practicing the big shots that could have been required on the last day, but was also venting his anger for his struggles with the ball on a torturous track for the bowlers.
That short stint in the nets was just a dress rehearsal. The main show was on display on Monday, the last day of the tie that turned out to be the most interesting one. He not only raised his highest score in first-class cricket, but also helped UP deprive Maharashtra of the first-innings lead.
Coming in to bat at 408 for 5, with Parvinder falling to Samad Fallah, Chawla had a challenging task to Fallah and Co at bay for the rest of the day's play. With more than half the day's play and a maximum of 50 overs remaining, Chawla and Arish Alam had a lot to do.
The allrounder decided to take the best bowler, Fallah, on immediately as his first three balls were dispatched to the off-side fence. Having succeeded in overcoming the toughest challenge, Chawla grew in confidence and raised his fifty in quick time, off just 29 balls.
Despite losing Alam - who played a patient knock, Chawla kept the runs flowing, primarily scoring boundaries. He targeted all the spinners, hitting all his eight sixes, including three successive hits off the left-armer Akshay Darekar just after celebrating his century. He also cut and pulled the three pace bowlers at will.
Every stroke indicated that he was making a statement at the curator. "It is one of the flattest decks I have ever played in my career. I am primarily a bowler, so I enjoy my bowling," Chawla said. "And after seeing the whole game, I feel I have done a reasonable job for my team. Getting three wickets and scoring more than 150 runs is good for me, especially after playing the first game after being injured for almost two months, going ahead into the rest of the season."
Chawla's onslaught was finally over as he failed to time a quick one by Anupam Sanklecha. Even though he had helped his team escape from a slightly precarious position - with the lead at stake - Chawla was a tad disappointed not to have stayed till the end.
"You're bound to get an odd good delivery. It was perhaps the only defensive shot I played towards the end of the innings and I missed it, so it happens. But I am reasonably happy with my effort."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo