Tue, 26 Mar 2019

RoI hold all the aces after magnificent Vihari century

ESPNCricInfo
15 Feb 2019, 22:42 GMT+10

3:00 AM ET

Vidarbha 37 for 1 (Sanjay 17*, Taide 16*) and 425 trail Rest of India 330 and 374 for 3 decl (Vihari 180*, Rahane 87, Iyer 61*, Sarwate 2-141) by 243 runs

Hanuma Vihari's dominant 180 not out, Ajinkya Rahane's measured 87, and Shreyas Iyer's marauding unbeaten 52-ball 61 helped Rest of India declare their second innings on 374 for three with an hour left to play. Vidarbha, needing 280 to win outright, lost captain Faiz Fazal in the first over of their response, and were 37 for one at close of play, still 243 runs shy of the target with nine wickets in hand.

The day belonged to Vihari, who struck his second century of the game, becoming only the second to do so in Irani Cup history. Shikhar Dhawan (in 2011/12) was the first to achieve the feat. Vihari's hundred, in fact, was his third in as many Irani innings, the other one coming against Vidarbha last season.

His third-wicket stand of 229 with Rahane - a partnership that began on the third evening - completely changed the complexion of the game. Starting from an overnight score of 102 for two, the two added 110 in the morning, and then put together a further 63 before Rahane was dismissed. That was Vidarbha's first (and, as it turned out, only) wicket of the day, and came after they had fallen 180 runs behind.

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Thereafter, Iyer took the attack to Vidarbha as RoI searched for quick runs before the declaration. He carefully played out the few overs before tea, but changed gears after the break, and the post-tea session began with Iyer smacking a six and a four off left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate, which he repeated off paceman Rajneesh Gurbani in the next over. When left-arm spinner Akshay Karnewar came into the attack, Iyer walloped him for another ten runs to reach his half-century in just 45 balls.

Vihari, who started the last session on 153, then freed his arms too. He cut Yash Thakur to the deep-point boundary and drove him over the extra-cover fence in the innings' penultimate over, and was 20 shy of a double-century when Rahane called the batsmen back.

In the morning, Vihari, beginning on 40, found the first boundary in the opening over of the day with a chipped shot off Sarwate, and soon reached his half-century. Rahane, too, joined in on the big-hitting early with a six over long-on off the same bowler.

After that, a period of attritional cricket was on display, as Fazal rotated his three spinners across the first hour to keep RoI's run-flow in check, but as the session progressed, the two batsmen grew in confidence.

A glance down to the fine-leg boundary earned Rahane his half-century in the 50th over, while Vihari continued to hit the occasional four, using his wrists to play inside-out over the off-side infield more than once. Just four minutes before the lunch break, Vihari reached his hundred with a lofted drive off offspinner Akshay Wakhare.

The afternoon session began with Vihari and Rahane bunting the older ball around, but then they went on the offensive. Vihari made the first move, whipping Sarwate off his pads to the midwicket fence. Rahane followed suit in Sarwate's next over, first skipping down the track to muscle one to the midwicket boundary before hitting a back-foot cut to point for four.

Vihari used the sweep, in particular, to good effect against Karnewar on a track that continued to deteriorate. The extra turn and uneven bounce meant that batting was not necessarily easy, but the Vihari-Rahane combination provided nearly nothing for the Vidarbha bowlers to be excited about.

Vidarbha took the second-new ball in the 93rd over, and got lucky almost straightaway. One ball after surviving a stumping chance, Rahane perished to a sharp stumping from wicketkeeper Akshay Wadkar. Stepping down the track to play towards the leg side, Rahane missed altogether as Sarwate's left-arm spin turned away from him, and he had to leave 13 short of a century.

Rahane's 87, though, was his highest score in his last 38 first-class innings, a period going back to August 2017 when he scored 132 against Sri Lanka in the Colombo Test match.

Vihari continued unaffected, reaching his 150 shortly before tea when Gurbani, bowling only his second over of the day, offered the batsman a full toss outside off, which he slapped to point.

There was also a ten-minute stoppage in the session when umpire Nandan needed medical attention. He was struck on the head by a throw from Gurbani, fielding at long-off, in the 95th over, but was fortunately able to continue for the rest of the session. After tea, however, third umpire C Shamsuddin replaced him.

Vidarbha needed to bat out only 16 overs on the day. In that time, Ankit Rajpoot flattened Fazal's off stump from around the wicket for a three-ball duck. Left-arm pacer Tanveer-ul-Haq also bowled two overs with the new ball, but with the batsman looking comfortable, Rahane quickly shifted to spin. It almost worked when R Sanjay flicked Rahul Chahar to the forward short-leg fielder, but it was in and out quickly. The day ended with Sanjay on 17 and Atharwa Taide on 16.

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