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Pujara back to old ways, scores 12th double-century

Cheteshwar Pujara recorded his 12th first-class double-century ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Cheteshwar Pujara now holds the record for the most double-hundreds by an Indian in first-class cricket. He made his 12th on Thursday to go past the tally of Vijay Merchant, and in the process also regained some form in the lead-up to India's next Test assignment against Sri Lanka in November.

Pujara began the day on 125 and made smooth progress to finish on 204 off 355 balls with a whopping 28 fours. For most of the day, his partner was Chirag Jani, who struck a century of his own during sixth-wicket stand of 210. On the back of their effort, Saurashtra declared on 553 for 9. Jharkhand seamers Ashish Kumar and Varun Aaron bowled more than 30 overs each for three wickets apiece. The left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem toiled hard for figures of 51-9-183-2.

India's team management would also be pleased that Pujara is among the runs again considering he had a lean time in the English county circuit: only managing a top score of 34 in his last eight innings of the season. His Ranji season began with 35 and 15 but now has assumed the proportions usual for him - he broke a record that had stood for more than 70 years.

Saurashtra's day only got better when left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat bowled the Jharkhand openers cheaply to help his side end the day with a substantial lead of 501 runs.

A sensational fightback from the Gujarat bowlers helped them claim a first-innings lead of 79 despite making only 236. They ensured eight out of the 10 Haryana batsmen dismissed couldn't get into double-digits and the only ones who did couldn't make more than 65. Rohit Sharma, the 24-year old wicketkeeper, was stranded on that score as Piyush Chawla picked up 4 for 48 in 21 overs.

Haryana began the day 0 for 1 and upon pushing the score to 27 lost three wickets in four balls. Medium-pacer Chintan Gaja was the cause of this chaos, taking out Harshal Patel for 23 and Chaitanya Bishnoi for 0 before Priyank Panchal chipped in with the run-out of Shivam Chauhan to make it three strikes in the seventh over.

The 19-year old batsman Himanshu Rana fought back with his fourth half-century in 14 first-class matches. He put on 74 for the sixth wicket with Rohit but Chawla put an end to that brief period of prosperity for Haryana. Then the 17-year old slow left-armer Siddharth Desai, who made his debut last month, came back to mop up the tail.

Having bowled out the opposition for 157 in 64 overs, Gujarat remained ahead of the game with the help of their opener Panchal. He made an unbeaten 61 off 90 balls, with 11 fours, to move his team to 110 for 2 in only 29 overs.

Kerala's bowlers enjoyed a productive outing as well, using spin to strangle Jammu and Kashmir in Thiruvananthapuram. The experienced Jalaj Saxena (3-57) combined with the debutant KC Akshay (4-37) and Sijomon Joseph (3-43), a left-arm spinner playing only his third first-class match, to bowl the opposition out for 173.

Saxena's wickets moved him to 29 for the season, eight above the second-placed Chawla.

It took a fair bit of time for Kerala to make their first incision but as soon as Shubham Khajuria was caught behind in the 28th over, a procession began. J&K fell from 82 for 0 to 86 for 4 in the space of 38 deliveries. The captain Parvez Rasool and Bandeep Singh resisted with a 53-run stand for the fifth wicket, but Joseph broke through that and paved the way for Akshay to knock over the tail and secure Kerala a first-innings lead of 46 despite making only 219.

Saxena returned to open the batting and was unbeaten on 16 off 31 balls even as his partner Vishnu Vinod fell for 20 off 22. By the end of the day, Kerala's lead was nine runs short of 100.