Saha stakes Test claim with double ton in ROI’s Irani Cup win

Mumbai, Jan 24 (IANS) Bengal wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha staked his claim for a call-up to the national Test side, striking his maiden double century to help Rest of India (ROI) beat Ranji Champions Gujarat by six wickets and clinch the Irani Cup at the Brabourne Stadium here on Tuesday.

Chasing 379 for victory, ROI were in trouble at 63/4 before Saha (203 not out) and skipper Cheteshwar Pujara, who remained unbeaten on 116 forged a 316-run fifth wicket stand to help the team clinch their 15th title.

Resuming the day at 266/4, the overnight duo of Saha and Pujara continued to torment the Gujarat bowling as Pujara cut a short and wide delivery off medium pacer Ishwar Chaudhary past the point boundary to bring up his century in 214 deliveries.

At the other end, Saha was at his aggressive best, specially against the slower bowlers as he cut past tweaker Karan Patel off the cover boundary to get to his magnificent double ton.

Saha, who was India’s first-choice wicketkeeper in the Test team until the Visakhapatnam Test against England before an injury forced him out of the side.

He was replaced by Gujarat skipper Parthiv Patel for the last three Tests and the southpaw made it count with two half-centuries.

However, Saha’s brilliant form with the bat will now put the pressure on the national selectors for the first-choice stumper for India’s one-off Test against Bangladesh next month and the subsequent four-match series against Australia.

In the Irani Cup, ROI had started the chase on a bad note as openers Akhil Herwadkar and Abhinav Mukund could only add 29 runs in 10 overs before Karan sent back Herwadkar, who scored 20 runs in 49 balls.

After seven overs, Mukund (19) was also sent packing by Hardik after being caught by Dhruv Raval. Middle-order batsmen Karun Nair (7) and Manoj Tiwary (7) also failed to step up to the occasion as both were dismissed cheaply by Hardik and Mohit Thadani.

Incoming batsman Saha, who marked his return from injury with a gritty hundred then stabilised the innings with Saurashtra’s Pujara to put his team back into the match.

For Gujarat, left-arm spinner Hardik scalped two wickets while Thadani and Karan chipped in with one wicket each.

Brief Scores: Gujarat: 358 & 246 vs Rest of India 226, 379/4 (Wriddhiman Saha 203 not out, Cheteshwar Pujara 116 not out, Hardik Patel 2/104).