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Duleep Trophy 2016: India 'Blue' progress to the final by virtue of huge first-innings lead

Ram Kumar
FEATURED WRITER
1.54K   //    07 Sep 2016, 22:09 IST
Murali Vijay
Murali Vijay spent much needed time in the middle

Following a surprising decision to not enforce the follow on, India ‘Blue’ could not force a result and had to be content with sharing the spoils with India ‘Green’ on the final day at Greater Noida. However, a draw was enough to propel the Gautam Gambhir-led side towards contesting the Duleep Trophy final.

Resuming at 85/0, both openers reached half-centuries before being cleaned up in an identical fashion by Jalaj Saxena. Despite getting themselves into a dominating position, skipper Gambhir was reluctant to declare and wanted to close the door firmly on their opponents.

Cheteshwar Pujara attempted to bring out his limited-overs skills with a flurry of strokes while wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik joined in on the fun too. With Suresh Raina not too convinced by his seam options, the duo made merry by taking on the spinners.

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Though Pragyan Ojha managed to send back Pujara with a nicely tossed one, Karthik got stuck into him by smashing three consecutive boundaries. When Shreyas Gopal was brought back into the attack, wickets fell in a cluster.

However, Sheldon Jackson inflicted some more damage by repeatedly going over the top. With the action seemingly meandering, Ojha suffered a freakish head injury after receiving a dangerous blow off an unpredictable bounce.

Amidst concerned faces, the left-arm spinner was taken for further treatment with a stretcher. Once play resumed, Jackson dispatched a couple of short deliveries beyond the fence before the final wicket fell.

Murali Vijay gets some batting practice

With less than two sessions remaining and the target at an improbable 769, a draw appeared the obvious outcome. However, a solid start was important for national opener Murali Vijay ahead of a hectic home season.

After the Caribbean tour saw him grappling with a thumb injury and inexplicably missing out for flashier batsmen, the 32-year old needed to spend some time in the middle to recapture his rhythm.

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The stylish right-hander got off to a rather perilous beginning with Pankaj Singh testing his patience outside the off-stump. But, he settled in alongside Robin Uthappa as the India ‘Blue’ bowlers struggled to prise out a breakthrough on what was still a batting-friendly surface.

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Vijay’s trademark pick-ups and chip shots were on display as spinners bore the brunt of the workload. At the other end, Uthappa was also in his elements with the partnership looking firm.

But, Karn Sharma managed to dismiss both batsmen by luring them with the discernable flight. As the final hour loomed, Gambhir introduced his part-timers into the equation. When Karthik gave up the gloves to replace Pujara, it was time for the inevitable handshake and the accompanying draw.

While India ‘Blue’ snapped up 3 points from the contest and sauntered through to the final, India ‘Green’ exited from the tournament after picking up only a solitary point. With the likes of Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan and Amit Mishra set to participate in the five-day summit clash, plenty of fireworks could be in store.

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