Out-of-favour opener Gautam Gambhir hit his first century in more than two years as India ‘A’ came up with a solid batting display to take firm control of the third unofficial Test against the West Indies ‘A’, at the KSCA stadium, in Hubli, on Thursday.
Day 2 saw the host batsmen dominating throughout, as out-of-form skipper Cheteshwar Pujara's also hit a brilliant hundred to remain unbeaten on 139 when the stumps were drawn.
Giving him company at the other end was Abhishek Nayar, on 10.
India ‘A’ lead by 66 runs in their first innings, with as many as seven wickets remaining.
Despite a poor start -- overnight opener V A Jagadeesh (16) was out early after resuming at 10 for one -- India ‘A’ went on to score 324 runs during the day.
Seeking to make a comeback to the national team, Gambhir, who was woefully out of form for a long time, notched 123 off 236 balls, with the help of 11 boundaries.
The Delhi left-hander, who seemed determined to play a long innings in his quest to force the national selectors sit up and take note, stroked his way to his 35th first-class century by flicking spinner Ashley Nurse for a boundary. But before that he survived a loud leg before appeal off Nurse.
He was finally dismissed by Narasingh Deonaraine after tea.
The opener showed glimpses of his old self, mixing aggression with defence as per the situation. He was flamboyant in the morning session when he cracked eight scintillating fours, but looked guarded in the second session as he did not score a single boundary.
Most of his runs after lunch came in singles and twos, reflecting his determination not to fish at any away-going ball, which the WI A bowlers had offered to him in plenty.
Gambhir got good support from Pujara, who scored his runs after batting watchfully for nearly five hours and hitting 15 exquisite boundaries.
Both were involved in a massive 207-run stand for the second wicket, which put India ‘A’ in a position from where they can win the match and level the three-match series.
Pujara, meanwhile, kept the opposition busy by picking up singles and twos, and occasionally putting away the bad deliveries for boundaries.
The captain reached his ton when he cracked a boundary through the off side off Nikita Miller after facing 180 balls.
After the fall of Gambhir's wicket, Sehwag walked in to bat amidst loud cheers and whistles from the jam-packed stadium. The 'Nawab of Najafgarh' hardly took any time to settle down as he straightaway delighted the spectators with a boundary and the first six of the match off Miller.
The Delhi batsman, who was involved in 75-run partnership for third wicket with Pujara, however, did not last long as Nurse caught a dolly after the ball ballooned at short mid-on off Miller. He fell for 38 that came of 49 balls, studded with two boundaries and a six.
Unlike the Indian bowlers, especially Abhishek Nayar and Dhawal Kulkarni, the West Indies ‘A’ bowlers failed to swing the ball. Nevertheless, Miller, Deonaraine and Johnson claimed a wicket each.
West Indies ‘A’ (1st innings): 268
India ‘A’ (1st innings): (overnight 10 for no loss)
V A Jagadeesh b Johnson 16
Gautam Gambhir b Deonarine 123
Cheteshwar Pujara not out 139
Virender Sehwag c Nurse b Miller 38
Abhishek Nayar not out 10
Extras: (LB-5, W-2, NB-1) 8
Total: (For 3 wkts; 95 overs) 334
Fall of wickets: 1-35, 2-242, 3-317.
Bowling: Miguel Cummins 18-4-54-0, Delorn Johnson 15-3-50-1, Jonathan Carter 6-1-22-0, Nikita Miller 23-3-70-1, Ashley Nurse 16-1-57-0, Assad Fudadin 8-1-28-0, Narsingh Deonarine 8-1-38-1, Kraigg Brathwaite 1-0-10-0.
Image: Gautam Gambhir
Photograph: Arko Datta/Reuters