Rest of India 328 for 2 (Vijay 151*, Rahane 81, Pujara 78) lead Rajasthan 253 (Bist 117*, Umesh 5-55) by 75 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Rest of India's batsmen picked off some of the easiest runs they would have scored to pummel Rajasthan on the second day of the Irani Cup, as the large gulf in quality between the two sides was exposed at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
M Vijay, India's preferred back-up opener little more than a year ago, began the season with the big runs he will need to consistently score to return to the thoughts of the national selectors. Ajinkya Rahane reached the milestone of 5000 first-class runs, but missed out on an on-the-platter century, and Cheteshwar Pujara feasted on some listless bowling.
Such was the dominance of Rest of India that in the two-and-a-half hour morning session, there were only three moments of minor discomfort for the opening batsmen: an edge in the early overs that bounced through to slip, an lbw appeal that was more out of formality than any real conviction, and an inside-edge that rolled towards mid-on. Otherwise, Vijay and Rahane middled virtually every ball they played before lunch to demoralise the Ranji champions. The highlight of the morning was the off-driving by both batsmen, who confidently played on-the-up and consistently dispatched the ball through covers.
Rajasthan, without their two most potent bowlers of the previous season, were toothless on a track that didn't encourage the bowlers too much. Their three quick bowlers all averaged around 115kph, and though Deepak Chahar got the ball to jag around a little, there was nothing for the batsmen to be alarmed about. The spinners too found little purchase; they dropped it too short too often and were easily dealt with. By the final session, both left-arm spinner Gajendra Singh and offspinner Madhur Khatri were bowling defensive lines on the pads, looking purely at containment. It didn't help that Chahar had to leave the field with a knee injury just before tea.
Rajasthan tried various strategies early on to ruffle the batsmen, putting eight men on the off side, and later putting square leg midway to the boundary and a deep backward square leg before trying to bounce the batsmen. Nothing worked.
The wicket, when it finally arrived midway through the day's play, was inevitably through a run-out, a fortuitous one at that. Rahane was serenely progressing towards his first first-class century since last year's Irani Cup when he firmly on-drove a delivery from Gajendra. He immediately set off for a single, but the ball struck Vijay's bat and knocked it out of the non-striker's hand. The slightly shaken Vijay signalled for Rahane to turn back, but it was too late as the ball had dribbled to the mid-on fielder, and Rahane didn't even try getting back.
Both Pujara and Vijay were also almost run-out - Pujara when Gajendra palmed a Vijay straight drive onto the stumps, and Vijay when he was sauntering a single to long-on not realising that the throw was coming towards his end.
Vijay grew more adventurous as the day progressed. While in the morning his scoring was mainly through along-the-ground drives and carves behind point, he started to step out and launch the spinners over their heads later in the day. He was almost entirely untroubled during his unbeaten 151, and a double-century is his for the taking on Sunday.
Pujara looked the most loose of the top three. As he and Vijay went about dismantling Rajasthan after tea, there was a troublesome phase when Pujara was nearly dismissed three times in close succession - first a catch turfed at second slip by Vineet Saxena, then a close lbw call followed by a loud caught-behind appeal. There was a missed stumping chance as well later on, when he was on 64. In between, he was ruthless against the generous dose of short balls, repeatedly carving the ball through cover or pulling to the square-leg boundary.
Rajasthan had something to cheer about late in the day, when left-arm quick Choudhary had Pujara nicking through to the keeper on the second delivery after the new ball was taken. That, though, did little to alter the balance of the game, which remains firmly in Rest of India's favour.