Mumbai: Cheteshwar Pujara ploughed a lonely furrow and made a fighting 86, but Rest of India floundered against Gujarat's bowling attack and were pushed against the ropes by the newly-crowned Ranji Trophy champions in the Irani Cup match today.
At stumps on day two of the five-day match, Rest were struggling at 206 for 9 wickets, chasing Gujarat's first innings total of 358, with captain Pujara's 221-minute effort being the cornerstone of his team's innings.
The not out batsmen at close were number ten and eleven, Pankaj Singh (7) and Mohammed Siraj (8) and Gujarat were well-poised to take a handy first innings lead on the morrow at the Brabourne Stadium here.
Pujara, who came in to bat after the early fall of opener Abhinav Mukund for 8 off the last ball of the 9th over bowled by Chintan Gaja, kept the innings together while the other batsmen fell around him.
The Saurashtra batsman was seventh out after hitting nine fours in 156 balls, caught behind top-edging a short ball from Ishwar Chaudhary.
In fact, three wickets fell at the same score of 191 with Kuldeep Singh and Shahbaz Nadeem being the others to be dismissed before and after Pujara as Gujarat slumped from 166 for three to 192 for 9 in 16 overs, and lost their last four wickets for the addition of one run in a sensational collapse.
The only other batsman to impress for the Rest apart from Pujara was Mumbai opener Akhil Herwadkar who made 48 with one six and seven fours in 124 minutes before he got caught in the leg trap placed by left arm spinner Hardik Patel, who grabbed 3 for 73.
The early strikes were by Gaja, who accounted for the wickets of Mukund (8), Chennai Test triple centurion Karun Nair (28) in the beginning before adding the scalp of Siddharth Kaul towards the end to end the day with fine figures of 3 for 46.
Mohit Thadani bowled a fine third spell of 7-3-12-2 in which he sent back Manoj Tiwary and Wridhiman Saha cheaply in the space of 12 balls and ended the day with 2 for 48.
In the morning, Gujarat added 58 runs to their overnight 300 for 8 in 75 minutes batting before their first innings came to an end.
Overnight not out Chirag Gandhi added 33 runs to his overnight score before being dismissed for 169 by Kaul who caught and bowled him after the batsman had stayed at the wicket for eight minutes under five hours.
Kaul finished with 5 for 86 while Pankaj Singh got 4 for 104.
Brief scores: Gujarat 358 all out (M Juneja 47, C Gandhi 169; Pankaj Singh 4 for 104, S Kaul 5 for 86) v Rest of India 206 for 9 (A Herwadkar 48, C Pujara 86, Pankaj Singh not out 7, Mohd Siraj not out 8; C Gaja 3 for 46, Hardik Patel 3 for 73).