The strategically scheduled Duleep Trophy for the 2016-17 home season, has already reaped rewards in terms of bringing to the fore cricketers who could go on to be a part of the Test side that is scheduled to play as many as 13 Test matches at home – the longest Indian home season ever, as far as the number of matches played is concerned.
While the likes of Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund and Nathu Singh had already impressed during the previous three games of the tournament, India Blue’s Sheldon Jackson, who had already scored a hundred against India Green in the third match of the tournament, bettered it with another century in the all-important final.
Gautam Gambhir and Mayank Agarwal provided India Blue with another perfect start, sharing a partnership of 144 runs for the 1st wicket. Although Gambhir missed out on a century by just 6 runs, Cheteshwar Pujara – whose spot in the Indian Test side has come under scrutiny following his mellowed performances against the West Indies during the recently-concluded Test series – didn’t, and finished Day 1 unbeaten on 111.
Getting the wicket of Dinesh Karthik off the first ball of the day was the only moment of success that the India Red had all day, as after that, Jackson and Pujara got together for a mammoth 243-run partnership and broke the back of the India Red bowling attack. When they eventually declared at 693/6, India Red already had a massive mountain to scale. Their job was made even more difficult by a breezy spell of fast bowling by Pankaj Singh, who picked up 2/12 in his 4 overs, by dismissing Abhinav Mukund and Sudeep Chatterjee off the 2nd and 3rd balls of the 1st over to reduce India Red to 16/2 in 9 overs at Stumps.
The Pujara-Jackson show
However, the architects of the day were Pujara and Jackson, who made the opposition’s bowling attack – an attack that contained Amit Mishra, Nathu Singh, Kuldeep Yadav and Stuart Binny – toil for the whole day. While Pujara’s knock was a continuation of his efforts last night, Jackson started from scratch and attacked his way to his 2nd Duleep Trophy hundred of the season.
Coming in to bat at 362/4, the platform was set for the 29-year-old to keep calm and build his innings with patience, which he did to perfection. Being absolutely brutal to anything that was in the hitting zone, Jackson made full use of the helpful conditions that were on offer, including the flaccid wicket at the Greater Noida Sports Complex, and made the scoring look ridiculously easy.
Two consecutive boundaries off Nathu Singh in the 102nd over got the Saurashtra batsman going, as he took a special liking to Mishra, off whom he hit two fours in as many overs early in his innings while facing the leg-spinner for the first time in the match.
Kuldeep Yadav was brought on, in the hope of giving his side a wicket, and Gurkeerat Singh was deployed from the other end, as Yuvraj Singh, the India Red captain, went for an all out attack with on the India Blue batsmen with his spinners. But the breakthrough was hard to come by as Jackson and Pujara played them around the park for singles and doubles even when the boundaries had dried up.
Jackson makes it count
Jackson brought up his fifty off 107 balls in the 122nd over, but he was only half done. Yadav was hit for boundaries in consecutive overs, Yuvraj was hit too, who tried to roll his arm over, after witnessing his prime spinners fail in the quest of getting wickets, and Mishra was hit for consecutive fours, yet again, by the middle-order batsman to bring up his 2nd century of the tournament.
Immediately after his hundred, Mishra was launched over midwicket, off a full ball outside leg stump for the first six of the match, and when Pradeep Sangwan was brought on – after Yuvraj got tired of experimenting with his spinners – he too was given the same treatment.
Throughout the course of the innings, Jackson had his share of luck as well, as he was shelled thrice, the latest of which came off the bowling of Yadav, when Dhawan dropped the batsman at midwicket. However, he made sure that he rode all the luck that he had been bestowed with.
Finally, when the sojourn came to an end, as he pushed a soft return catch to Mishra after smashing him over long on for his 2nd six, the bowler’s send-off – wherein he gestured towards the batsman with his hands, showing the latter the way to the pavilion – explained the frustration of the opposition bowlers.
Brief Scores: India Blue 693/6 dec. (Pujara 256*, Jackson 134, Mishra 2/171) lead India Red 16/2 (Dhawan 14*, Yuvraj 0*, Pankaj Singh 2/12) by 677 runs in the 1st innings at Stumps on Day 2.