Ranji Trophy final: Pujara retires hurt; Saurashtra reach 206/5 on day one

Pujara has throat infection but 'should be okay' to bat on day two, skipper said

pujara-rani-pti Saurashtra batsman Cheteshwar Pujara during Ranji Trophy final match against Bengal, in Rajkot | PTI

An unwell Cheteshwar Pujara could not bat more than 24 balls due to fever but should be fit enough to resume duty for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy final against Bengal on day two in Rajkot.

Pujara, who had returned from New Zealand only a couple of days ago, came in to bat at six instead of his usual number four spot (for India it is number three) due to a throat infection.

He decided to walk off the field at the end of the 77th over, scoring five off 24 balls. Chetan Sakariya, who usually bats at number 11, was promoted for the second game in a row after Pujara's forced departure.

"He has fever and bad throat but should be fine to bat tomorrow," said Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Unadkat.

The hosts, aiming for the maiden title in their fourth attempt, badly needs Pujara's services on day two having reached 206 for five on the opening day.

Avi Barot and Vishvaraj Jadeja struck gritty half-centuries before Bengal pacer Akash Deep struck late in the final session to leave Saurashtra at 206 for five at stumps on Monday.

Akash Deep, who was Bengal's standout bowler with three wickets, had Chetan Sakariya caught behind, bringing the end of day's play. With the pacers doing the bulk of the job, only 80.5 overs could be bowled.

Saurashtra, playing their first final at home, opted to bat in friendly conditions.

The Bengal pace attack has delivered all season and the team relied on them to get the early breakthroughs.

Ishan Porel and Mukesh Kumar tested Harvik Desai (38) and Barot in their opening spell but the openers did well to take Saurashtra to 77 for no loss in 35 overs at lunch. Luck also smiled on the home team with Bengal grassing three difficult catches in the session. Desai was dropped twice while Barot got one life.

Bengal got their first wicket in the third over after lunch when Desai, surprised by the extra bounce generated by left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed, pushed it straight into the hands of the silly-point fielder to leave his team at 82 for one in the 38th over.

Though there was assistance on offer for spinners, Ahmed was content to bowl the containing line and bowled as many as 20 overs in his first spell, majority of them from over the wicket, with pacers operating from the other end.

Vishvaraj then got together with Barot and opted for an aggressive approach against Ahmed, hitting the spinner for three consecutive boundaries.

Medium pacer Akash Deep provided the second wicket to Bengal when he removed a well-set Barot with a ball that pitched around off stump and straightened, taking a faint edge to Wriddhiman Saha.

Jadeja and centurion of the semifinal against Gujarat, Arpit Vasavada (29 not out) took Saurashtra to 155 for two in 61 overs.

Bengal pacers lifted their game in the final session with Akash Deep castling Jadeja with a sharp incoming ball soon after the batsman completed his second half century of the season.

Two overs later, Porel trapped Saurashtra's leading run-getter Sheldon Jackson who had got going with two cover drives off Kumar's tempting half-volleys. Hero of the semifinal against Karnataka, Kumar was guilty of offering too many freebies to the opposition.

Jackson's fall finally brought Pujara in the middle but he walked off the field looking unwell, having consumed 24 balls.

The ball often kept low in the final session, signs that the batsmen's job is only going to get tougher.

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