Ahmedabad: Less than 24 hours after being dropped from the India Test squad, Cheteshwar Pujara struck an uncharacteristic 83-ball 91 for Saurashtra in their Ranji Trophy match against Mumbai here on Sunday.
The Elite Group D match ended in a draw with Saurahtra making 372 for nine in their second innings on the fourth and final day.
Saurashtra were only 48 runs ahead when the stumps were drawn but the lack of time meant Mumbai could not go for an outright victory.
So the record 41-time winners settled for three points from the game for taking the first-innings lead while defending champions Saurashtra bagged one.
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Bowling his slow left-arm spin to good effect, Shams Mulani returned career-best figures of 7/114, adding to his four wickets in the Saurashtra first innings.
On Saturday, senior batters Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were dropped from the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka, starting from March 4 in Mohali after an inconsistent run.
The seasoned Pujara has managed just 602 runs at 24.08 in 14 Tests over the last one year.
Pujara, who last scored a Test century on the 2018-19 tour of Australia, got out for a duck in the first innings of this match, even as Rahane made a hundred.
However, on the final day of the match, Pujara played freely and found the fence at will while maintaining a strike rate of over 100, something very rare when it comes to the man from Rajkot, who is known for his solid defensive game.
In all, Pujara struck 16 fours and a six during his stay in the middle.
Wicketkeeper-opener Snell Patel (98) missed out on a century by just two runs, out caught by Shams Mulani off the bowling of experienced seamer Dhawal Kulkarni.
Patel’s opener partner, Harvik Desai made 62 as the duo added 163 runs for the first wicket in a much-improved batting effort.
Pujara added 101 runs for the fourth wicket with Vishvaraj Jadeja, whose contribution in the partnership was a mere 16.
Mumbai had made 544 for seven declared in their first innings and then enforced follow-on on Saurashtra after bowling them out for 220.
Mumbai: 544/7 declared
Saurashtra: 220 and 372/9 in 116 overs (Snell Patel 98, Cheteshwar Pujara 91; Shams Mulani 7/114).