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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Cheteshwar Pujara stays unbeaten to steer Saurashtra into final

Pujara hit an unbeaten 131 as Saurashtra won by five wickets Getty Images

Saurashtra 236 (Snell Patel 85, More 6-60) and 279 for 5 (Pujara 131*, Jackson 100) beat Karnataka 275 (Shreyas Gopal 87, Sharath 83, Pandey 62, Unadkat 4-56) and 239 (Shreyas 61, Jadeja 5-78) by five wickets

Just over ten years ago in Mumbai, Cheteshwar Pujara had scored an unbeaten 112 to steer Saurashtra to a fourth-innings target of 325 against Karnataka in the quarter-finals of the Ranji Trophy. On Monday, he completed a #10SeasonChallenge of sorts, his unbeaten 131 against the same opponents, this time at their backyard, leading Saurashtra home in another tricky fourth-innings chase, sealing a spot in their third Ranji final in seven seasons.

Starting day five at 224 for 3, Saurashtra took 17.4 overs to knock off the 55 runs they still needed. Karnataka had too little to defend, with seven wickets still to get, but they made sure they made Saurashtra work for those runs.

Sheldon Jackson, who put on 214 with Pujara for the fourth wicket, reached his hundred in the fourth over of the morning with a hooked four off Abhimanyu Mithun. He made a difficult shot look easy, meeting the ball in front of his right shoulder and rolling his wrists over to keep it down. In the very next over, though, Vinay Kumar got one to scoot through low and bowl him.

Vinay, Karnataka's talisman for so many years, and their captain when they won back-to-back domestic trebles in 2013-14 and 2014-15, has endured an ordinary season with the ball, ending with only 14 wickets in seven matches at an average of 33.71. On his last day of the season, however, he was a constant menace through his spell of seven overs, at one point beating Pujara twice in a row, first going past his inside edge and then the outside edge.

Ronit More bowled a testing spell at the other end, using the short ball frequently with close catchers on the leg side, and Arpit Vasavada fell to this line of attack, fending one off his ribs to short leg.

But, by then only five runs were required, and Pujara, who had calmly weathered all the pressure put on him by Karnataka - which was given an edge by what the home side perceived to be an umpiring error on day four, when they were sure he had nicked Vinay to the keeper - and whittled down the target effortlessly with clips into the leg side and steers down to third man, was still there.

He would, however, be at the non-striker's end when the winning runs came. After ducking three successive bouncers from More, Prerak Mankad got a half-volley next ball, and drove it through mid-off to spark raucous celebrations in the Saurashtra dressing room.

Saurashtra 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st1SS PatelHM Desai
2nd2HM DesaiVM Jadeja
3rd20CA PujaraHM Desai
4th214CA PujaraSP Jackson
5th37CA PujaraAV Vasavada
6th5CA PujaraPN Mankad