Gujarat 300 for 8 (Gandhi 136*, Juneja 47, Kaul 4-73) v Rest of India
After the big guns failed to fire, Chirag Gandhi's unbeaten maiden first-class hundred kept Gujarat afloat on a day where the Rest of India seamers, led by Siddarth Kaul and Pankaj Singh, dominated. While Rest of India were frustrated by an unbroken 39-run stand for the ninth wicket between Gandhi and Hardik Patel, they would be pleased with the day after Gujarat elected to bat.
On a pitch that had adequate bounce and lateral movement, the seamers whipped off Gujarat's top four for less than 100. But, Gandhi and Manprit Juneja hit back with a 109-run stand for the fifth wicket, and ensured Gujarat's innings didn't wither away altogether.
Gujarat's top-three run-getters in this season's Ranji Trophy were packed off by Pankaj and Kaul in the first session. Pankaj hassled Samit Gohel in the first over of the match with a scrambled sequence of inswingers and outswingers.
Gohel seemed unsure of which way the ball was moving and even left one that came back perilously close to the off stump. Pankaj followed it up with a delivery that curved away, before getting the last ball of the over to jag back in and trap Gohel in front. Priyank Panchal, the highest run-scorer in the Ranji Trophy, and Dhruv Raval (39) restored calm with some positive strokes during the course of their 55-run partnership.
It took a fine delivery from Pankaj to dislodge Panchal - the ball pitched on middle and off and seamed away and the outside edge was caught by Karun Nair at first slip.
After a tight first spell, Kaul came back for a threatening second spell of 7-2-23-2, with two wickets coming on either side of lunch. First, captain Parthiv Patel departed in the midst of a developing partnership. In the penultimate over before lunch, Parthiv attempted to punch Kaul off the back foot, but the ball was closer to his body than he anticipated and the resultant inside-edge found the stumps. In the first over of the second session, Raval, who had played a few attacking shots in the morning, dangled his bat at an away-going delivery from Kaul and was caught behind.
Things looked dire for Gujarat at 82 for 4, but Juneja and Gandhi didn't buckle under pressure. Together they pinched a number of sharp singles. On one occasion, Gandhi shaped for the cut off Pankaj, but realised that the ball was a touch closer to him than expected. He immediately arched back and glided the ball for four.
The run-rate, too, trickled past three as they completed their 50-run partnership in 67 balls. There were a few lucky breaks as well: Gandhi, on 42, stepped out and smashed Shahbaz Nadeem, who could barely get his hands on the ball as it flew past his face for four.
But Gujarat once again let the momentum slip by losing a wicket before a break. Rest of India captain Cheteshwar Pujara introduced part-time offspinner Akhil Herwadkar to bowl the last over before tea, and he struck with his second delivery. Juneja went back to a short ball and punched uppishly off the backfoot but picked out Pujara at short cover. A despondent Juneja couldn't get himself to leave the field.
Rest of India made a few fielding lapses in the final session, as Kaul and Karun dropped straightforward chances offered by Karan Patel and Mohit Thadani respectively. Kaul, who hurt his ring finger on his right hand while attempting the catch and went off the field, returned to make amends by dismissing Thadani. Gandhi eventually got to his hundred off 125 balls in the company of the tail. An over earlier, though, Chintan Gaja was caught off a deflection off the keeper's pads and held by Manoj Tiwary at first slip, but umpire Virender Sharma turned it down. Pankaj returned to have Gaja trapped in front, but Rest of India would have to wait for at least another day to bat.