Pujara's ninth double gives Saurashtra innings-lead
Tamil Nadu 565 for 8 dec (Abhinav 240, Karthik 133) drew with Saurashtra 581 for 6 dec (Pujara 269, Shah 195, Vasavada 70)
By the end of the opening session on the third day, the result, or rather the lack of one, seemed a foregone conclusion. Neither side had the bowling to force an outright win, so it was down to a shootout for first-innings points between two strong batting line-ups. Saurashtra salvaged three points in a stalemate at the MA Chidambaram Stadium while the hosts, Tamil Nadu, had to live with just one point despite putting on 565. That only 14 wickets fell across four days with neither team taking all ten wickets in an innings, showed the imbalance between bat and ball.
In the end, there were only individual milestones to be gained. Cheteshwar Pujara warmed up for the tour of South Africa with his ninth first-class double-century, occupying the crease for nearly two full days. Saurashtra captain Jaydev Shah narrowly missed his maiden double-ton but it was his mammoth stand of 353 for the fourth wicket with Pujara that had set up the side to take the innings lead.
The overcast conditions, following early-morning rain, gave the bowlers the best chance to create pressure, but Pujara and Shah didn't give anything away. Shah continued his assault against the spinners, increasing his six tally to eight, sending the ball a few rows into the second tier of the Madras Cricket Club clubhouse. The pair continued to find the gaps, especially Pujara, who took a different approach to his captain and kept the ball along the ground. Shah, who progressed at a faster rate, perished trying to drive Aswin Crist through the off side. The outside edge was taken neatly and low by B Aparajith at gully.
The breakthrough - the result of a bowling change - came much too late for Tamil Nadu, before Pujara and Aarpit Vasavada put together the second-most decisive partnership of the match. Tamil Nadu had themselves to blame for not piling on additional pressure, with Vasavada dropped at second slip by M Vijay. The edge flew to Vijay, who was late to react and it was his second costly drop of the match, having given Shah a life on 8.
Pujara progressed towards his double-hundred with a powerful straight drive and a dab to third man. Rain forced the players off the field half an hour before lunch and following the break, after a fairly prolonged wait in the 190s, Pujara reached 200 with an outside edge that raced to the third-man boundary. Among Indian batsmen, only Vijay Merchant (11), Sunil Gavaskar, Vijay Hazare and Rahul Dravid (10 each) have hit more first-class double-centuries.
Tamil Nadu shuffled their bowlers but the fourth-day pitch had not deteriorated enough to give either the seamers or spinners a chance. Even the part-timers couldn't produce any breakthroughs as Pujara and Vasavada - who already has a double-century this season - settled in for a century stand.
The field-set got more defensive, with four men in the deep, as Saurashtra neared 500. There was hardly an element of risk in Pujara's knock. The upper cut and reverse sweep - a shot he rarely plays - seemed premeditated, all played safe of the fielders.
The only thing that stood in Saurashtra's way of getting three points was the weather. Rain struck again at the stroke of tea but relented to cut short only 35 minutes of play. The pair reached their target of 566 in the final session and from then on the only point of interest was whether Vasavada could score a century and Pujara his second triple-hundred of the season. Vasavada fell slashing to point and the match was called off after Pujara fell top edging a sweep to fine leg for a marathon 269.
Tamil Nadu's declaration, late on the second day, had backfired. It was a situation that mirrored their match against Karnataka last season, at the same venue, when their bowlers failed to defend 538 for 4. Shah said he was surprised at the timing of their declaration. "I was expecting them to declare at around 640," Shah said. "We did the same thing against UP, batting out two days and declaring early on the third. In this game you can never say. A score of 560 is always difficult to chase and not many teams have chased it. I think after this Tamil Nadu will realise, on a pitch like this [though it isn't safe]."
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo