Tue, 26 Mar 2019

Lunch Rest of India 212 for 2 (Vihari 101*, Rahane 74*) and 330 lead Vidarbha 425 by 117 runs

Hanuma Vihari struck his second century of the Irani Cup tie against Vidarbha, and in the company of his captain Ajinkya Rahane, wrested back the advantage for Rest of India on the fourth morning in Nagpur.

The two began the penultimate day with their stand already worth 56 runs, and added another 110 in the first session of the day. That has taken RoI to 212 for two, 117 runs ahead on pitch that's offering turn as well as uneven bounce for the spinners.

Vihari, who started the day on 40, found the day's first boundary in the opening over with a chipped shot down the ground off Aditya Sarwate, and soon reached his half-century. Rahane, too, joined in the quick-scoring with a clean strike down the ground for six off the left-arm spinner.

A period of attritional cricket was on display after that as Vidarbha captain Faiz Fazal rotated his three spinners and managed to keep the run-flow in check, but as the session progressed, the two batsmen grew in confidence.

A glance down to the fine-leg boundary took Rahane to his half-century in the 50th over of the innings, while Vihari continued to find the occasional boundary, using his wrists well to hit the ball over the infield.

After the drinks break, Fazal threw the ball to his part-timers R Sanjay and Atharva Taide, but they were comfortably milked for runs as well. A loose delivery from Sanjay was put away to the backward-point fence by Rahane, while Vihari from the other struck back-to-back boundaries off Sarwate to get into the nineties.

Just four minutes before the break, Vihari reached his century - his third in as many innings in the Irani Cup, he had hit one last season too - with a lofted drive off Akshay Wakhare, the offspinner. He became only the second man (after Shikhar Dhawan in 2011/12) to score two hundreds in an Irani Cup contest, and saw off the session without any stumbles. Rahane went into the break unbeaten on 74.

RoI's lead would worry Vidarbha for certain. After the third day, their first-innings centurion Akshay Karnewar had said that any target of over 150 would be very difficult to chase down. At the end of the first wicketless session of the match, it does look like Vidarbha will be chasing significantly more than that.

As the players walked back for lunch, the Vidarbha players huddled near the boundary for what looked like a pep talk, with Ganesh Satish and Fazal taking the lead - they will hope it makes a difference after the break.

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