Cheteshwar Pujara had hurt Australia in a massive way during the recently concluded four-Test series. His centuries in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney proved to be the difference maker in India securing a Test series win in Australia for the first time ever. With 521 runs in the four Tests at an average of 74, the presence of Pujara in the Ranji Trophy 2018/19 quarterfinal clash against Uttar Pradesh was greeted with tremendous joy and the the 30-year-old did not disappoint. After a blip in the first innings, Pujara’s magnificent 67, combined with Harvik Desai’s 116 and solid contributions from Sheldon Jackson and Snell Patel helped Saurashtra chase down 372 to win by six wickets in Lucknow on Saturday and enter the semi-final of the Ranji Trophy 2018/19 where they will face Karnataka.
After Rinku Singh’s 150 and valuable spells from Yash Dayal (4/55), Ankit Rajpoot (3/71) and Shivam Mavi (3/40) gave Uttar Pradesh a valuable 177-run lead, Saurashtra fought back by dismissing the hosts for 194 with Dharmendrasinh Jadeja taking 4/53. In response, Harvik Desai and Snell Patel stitched a 132-run opening stand which gave Saurashtra the best platform. Desai reached a magnificent century but after he fell for 116, it was the Pujara and Sheldon Jackson show. The duo negotiated the Uttar Pradesh bowlers with ease. Mavi, who had accounted for Pujara for 11 in the first innings, failed to dislodge the ‘New Wall’ of Indian cricket as the 152-run stand guided Saurashtra to a magnificent win. The chase of 372 in the fourth innings is the highest in the history of the Ranji Trophy, going past the 371 in the game between Assam and Services in 2008/09 at Palam.
Vidarbha thrash Uttarakhand
Completing the semi-final line-up was Vidarbha, the defending champions who thrashed Uttarkhand by an innings and 115 runs. After Uttarakhand reached 355, Vidarbha were boosted by Wasim Jaffer’s brilliant 206, his 57th ton in First Class cricket and he got able assistance from Sanjay Ramaswamy (141) and Aditya Sarwate (102) as they secured a 274-run lead.
Vidarbha were boosted by Umesh Yadav’s magnificent burst of 5/23 and Aditya Sarwate’s 5/55 and Vidarbha achieved a crushing innings win to set-up a semi-final encounter with Kerala, who entered the semi-final for the first time after beating Gujarat in a low-scoring contest.
The semi-finals will be held on January 24 with the venue yet to be confirmed by the BCCI.