India ‘A’ skipper Cheteshwar Pujara cracked his third triple ton in first-class cricket as India A rode on his brilliance to force West Indies ‘A’ stare at an embarrassing defeat in the third unofficial 'Test' here today.
West Indies trail the hosts by 180 runs with seven wickets remaining in their second innings.
Pujara notched up an unbeaten 306 in a masterly exhibition of batsmanship as India ‘A’ declared their first innings at 564 for nine just at the stroke of tea in reply to West Indies ‘A’'s 268 in their first essay, to take a substantial 296-run lead.
At stumps on day three, the Indians had reduced the visitors to 116 for three in their second innings at KSCA Stadium.
The bowlers forced the Windies top order batsmen to surrender tamely with Zaheer Khan trapping stand-in captain Kieran Powell leg before for six, while Dhawal Kulkarni clean bowled Leon Johnson for one.
Right-arm medium fast Ishwar Pandey claimed the prized wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite leg before for 21. The right-hand batsman had been a thorn in the flesh for the hosts with two half centuries and a century in the series.
Narsingh Deonaraine and Assad Fudadin were batting on 44 and 36, respectively, when the stumps were drawn. The duo had put on an unbeaten 59 runs together for the fourth wicket.
With just a day left in the match, India ‘A’ will look to push for victory by making best use of morning conditions on the final day tomorrow.
Captain Pujara, who became only the second Indian after Ravindra Jadeja to score three triple hundreds, would be expecting Zaheer, Abhishek Nayar and Kulkarni to come good and help India ‘A’ level the three-match series 1-1.
The day today belonged to the Saurashtrian run-machine Pujara, who displayed an innings of discipline and character to tilt the match in India A's favour.
Pujara, who had scored 302 and 352 against Orissa and Karnataka in first-class matches, sweated out for nearly 10 hours in the middle, grinding the visiting team bowlers.
Since November 2012, Pujara has registered three double hundreds and two triple hundreds in first-class cricket with scores of 206 not out against England, 203 not out against Madhya Pradesh, 204 against Australia, besides 352 against Karnataka and 306 not out against West Indies ‘A’.
Pujara, who was batting at an overnight score of 139, accelerated the run rate to gain a substantial lead after Abhishek Nayar (11) and Paras Dogra (7) were packed off by medium-pacer Assad Fudadin and left-arm orthodox spinner Nikita Miller, respectively, earlier in the day.
The skipper played some delightful shots as he smashed 33 boundaries while adding 177 runs to his overnight score.
He reached his triple hundred when he cover drove a boundary off left-hand medium fast Delorn Johnson for an exquisite boundary after facing 410 balls.
Pujara saw wickets tumbling at the other end with contributions of 26, 6 and 19 coming from the bats of Uday Kaul, Kulkarni and Zaheer.
Unlike the Indian bowlers, especially Nayar and Kulkarni, West Indies ‘A’ bowlers failed to swing the ball. Nevertheless, Ashley Nurse was the leading wicket-taker for the Windies with figures of three for 106, while Nikita Miller and Narsingh Deonaraine took two wickets each. Assad Fudadin and Johnson bagged a wicket apiece.
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