Rest of India 206 for 9 (Pujara 86, Gaja 3-46, Hardik Patel 3-73) trail Gujarat 358 (Gandhi 169, Kaul 5-86, Pankaj 4-104) by 152 runs Scorecard
Gujarat's unrelenting discipline with the ball was only matched by Rest of India's flaccid batting, as they slumped to 206 for 9 on a largely good batting surface at the Brabourne Stadium. Except for a typically sturdy 86 from captain Cheteshwar Pujara, there were few contributions of substance from a powerful batting line-up, as Rest of India fell from 136 for 2 to 192 for 9.
On the other hand, Gujarat's seamers - strongly backed up by left-arm spinner Hardik Patel, who bowled 25 overs on the trot - deprived the batsmen of run-scoring opportunities and ultimately garroted them. The bowlers, marshalled by Chirag Gandhi (169), did their bit with the bat as well. Even as they pushed the team's total past 350 in over an hour of batting during the first session, they were helped in no small measure by Rest of India's ordinary fielding on the second day as well.
Gujarat's fielding, in contrast, played a starring role, especially in the dismissals of openers Abhinav Mukund and Akhil Herwadkar. In the ninth over, Abhinav saw there was only a wide slip and a gully, and attempted to steer the ball between them. But, Samit Gohel, at slip, dived to his left to pluck a fine one-handed catch. Herwadkar began a touch nervously and hit a few drives uppishly, but with Pujara batting confidently, he settled down and played a few eye-catching cover drives, often opening the face late to find the gaps. However, he was out against the run of play. Herwadkar went back to Hardik and worked him through the leg side, but Rawal at short leg, with eyes on the ball and low hands, made a tough catch look effortless.
For most of the second session, seamers Chintan Gaja, Ishwar Chaudhary and debutant Mohit Thadani bowled with two point fiedlers to Pujara, and tried to provoke him into playing a loose stroke outside off. Pujara, though, was happy leaving deliveries.
Karun Nair, though, looked scratchy for the major part of his 45-ball innings. Chaudhary troubled Karun early on with a sequence of in-dippers. Karun's first few runs came off inside-edges to the leg side; he briefly looked comfortable when he struck two cover drives for fours off successive deliveries from Hardik. Gaja, though, reaped the rewards of Chaudhary's probing spell (4-0-10-0) and removed Karun in the penultimate over before tea. Karun played away from his body, but the ball shaped in slightly and caught the inside edge, to be snared by Parthiv. Since his unbeaten triple hundred in Chennai, Karun has now only managed scores of 14, 12 and 28 in first-class cricket.
From overs 20 to 36 in the post-lunch session, Rest of India, thanks mainly to Pujara's enterprise, scored 70 runs. Pujara steered, dabbed and late cut the bowlers when they kept it outside off, and tucked it around for singles when they veered straighter. Parthiv spotted this and asked his seamers to bowl to the stumps with the cushion of a four-man leg-side field, especially loaded in front of square.
Thadani, whose third spell read 7-3-12-2, was the biggest beneficiary, as he pinged Manoj Tiwary (12) and Wriddhiman Saha (0) in front in the space of four overs. Rest of India managed only 40 runs from the 36th to the 50th overs. Soon, Hardik trapped Kuldeep Yadav lbw after the batsman, initially shaping for the sweep before changing his mind, failed to get his bat down in time. In the next over, Pujara's resistance came to an end when he was caught down the leg side attempting a pull. Shahbaz Nadeem and Siddarth Kaul didn't last long, but Pankaj Singh and Mohammed Siraj ensured Gujarat wouldn't bat again until tomorrow at least.
Thadani, 25, said there was some swing on offer throughout the day. "I was bowling around the stumps and was hoping for the ball to move in or out off the seam, but only a few balls came back in," he said.
"Parthiv was my inspiration. During my third spell, the plan was different, but he saw that I was bowling at the stumps and changed the field accordingly for a stump-line."
In the morning, Gandhi realised grafting wasn't a sustainable strategy with only two wickets left and took his chances with some adventurous strokes. He charged at Pankaj and took two fours off him. Pujara switched from seamers to spinners at both ends, but Gandhi continued to collect boundaries in clusters. When he smashed Kuldeep for a straight six, he had scored exactly 50 percent of Gujarat's total at that point - 328.
After Pujara brought the field in to deny him the single off the last ball, Gandhi jumped out of the crease again and lofted Kuldeep's flighted delivery over extra cover for four. Three overs later, though, Kaul removed Gandhi to claim his ninth five-for in first-class cricket. Seeing Gandhi walk out of the crease, Kaul pitched it short, and the batsman, trying to work it off his hips, top-edged it back to Kaul. His partnership with a resolute Hardik yielded 72 runs.
Thanks to some poor catching from Rest of India, the last-wicket stand lasted for longer than it should have. First, Abhinav dropped Ishwar Chaudhary at third slip, and in the next over, Nadeem put down an even simpler chance at gully offered by Hardik. Chaudhary swung his bat around for a few raspy hits before a Rest of India fielder - Manoj Tiwary - finally held on to a catch.