Cheteshwar Pujara [ Images ] stroked his way to an unbeaten double century as Saurashtra brightened their chances of making the quarter-finals of the Ranji Trophy after setting Madhya Pradesh [ Images ] an improbable 411-run target for an outright win in their Group A match, in Rajkot on Monday.
Pujara smashed his way to a fleunt innings of 203 from 221 balls, hitting 30 boundaries and a six, as Saurashtra declared their second innings on 303 for four in 76 overs giving their bowlers enough time to push for a victory.
Chasing the target, Madhya Pradesh were reduced to 89 for two on the penultimate day and the visitors now require another 322 runs with eight wickets remaining on fourth and final day.
Opener Jalaj Saxena (46 not out) and Rameez Khan (4 not out) were at the crease when stumps were drawn for the day.
Saurashtra, currently placed fifth on the table with 17 points, would look for an outright victory to earn the vital six points and finish among the top three teams from Group A.
On the other hand, Madhya Pradesh, with 20 points from seven games, are placed third on the table but a defeat tomorrow will put them out of contention for a knockout berth as only top-three teams from both Group A and B will qualify for the next stage.
But if Madhya Pradesh manage to eke out a draw, then they have an outside chance of making it to the quarters.
Meanwhile, resuming their second innings at 18 for one, the hosts lost their overnight batsman Sitanshu Kotak (6) and skipper Jaydev Shah (0) early.
However, Saurashtra's other overnight batsman, Pujara along with Aarpit Vasavada steadied the ship by putting on 159 runs for the fourth wicket.
Jalaj Saxena broke the partnership when he had Vasavada caught by wicketkeeper Naman Ojha [ Images ] on 55. The left-handed batsman struck seven fours.
Next man-in, Rahul Dave combined well with Pujara and played the role of an able ally to perfection as both helped Saurashtra cross the 300-run mark in their second innings.
Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images