Railways deny Pujara joy after maiden T20 ton
Twelve years after he first played the format, Cheteshwar Pujara finally has a century to show in T20s. However, his 61-ball 100 not out on the opening day of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in Indore wasn't enough to give Saurashtra victory against Railways.
Pujara carried his bat through Saurashtra's innings, which ended on 188 for three in 20 overs. Along the way, he became the first Saurashtra batsman to make a T20 century, surpassing his previous best - a 55-ball 81 - against Jammu & Kashmir in 2016. His second half-century on Thursday was three balls slower than his first, which came off 29 balls. In all, he hit 14 fours and a six.
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He put on 85 with wicketkeeper Harvik Desai and followed it up with an 82-run stand with Robin Uthappa, who made a 31-ball 46. This was Uthappa's first competitive fixture in four months following an ankle surgery in London. Uthappa, a key player for Kolkata Knight Riders since 2014, had missed the Ranji Trophy and spent the time away working on his rehabilitation. In between, he also had brief commentary stints during India's limited-overs series in Australia.
With India's next Test assignment only in July in the Caribbean, Pujara is likely to figure for Saurashtra throughout the T20 tournament, that also features Ajinkya Rahane, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer, R Ashwin and Mayank Agarwal.
Pujara, who hasn't featured in the IPL since his stint with Kings XI Punjab in 2014, is potentially looking at a third season of county cricket in the summer before India next play Test cricket after the World Cup.
Iyer smashes record for highest T20 score
Iyer struck 15 sixes and seven fours in his innings, including a 35-run over off Sikkim medium-pacer Tashi Bhalla. He was assisted by Suryakumar Yadav's 33-ball 63.
Incidentally, Iyer's 15 sixes also saw him take the record among Indian batsmen for most sixes in a T20 innings from M Vijay (11). Iyer is now perched tied-fourth with Chris Gayle on the overall list.
Puducherry, Uttarakhand cause upsets
In other results, Puducherry and Uttarakhand upset Hyderabad and Services with thrilling wins, by three runs and three wickets respectively.
Playing their first match against a team not part of the Plate Group, Puducherry were driven by Paras Dogra's 89 off 48 balls after being put in to bat by Hyderabad. Dogra came in at 39 for two in the sixth over, batted till the final ball, having carried Puducherry to 159 for six.
Hyderabad seemed well on course, with Akshath Reddy batting on a half-century and only 34 runs to get off 29 balls with seven wickets in hand. But Parandaman Thamaraikannan's 4 for 39 derailed the chase and despite Akshat remaining unbeaten on a 51-ball 69, Hyderabad ended three runs short at 156 for nine.
Uttarakhand, fresh off a Ranji Trophy quarter-final appearance, surged to victory over Services with just one ball to spare. Services had put on 164 for five after winning the toss, captain Rajat Paliwal leading the way with 54 off 35. Karn Kaushal gave Uttarakhand a rollicking start with 58 off 32, but the team suffered a mini collapse when he fell, going from 72 for no loss to 100 for five. With 65 needed off 41 balls, lower-order batsman Girish Rauturi smashed 49 off 27 balls, and though he fell on the second ball of the 20th over, Uttarakhand got over the line.