| GAYLE: Making the most of a dropped catch
Pune: Opener Chris Gayle struck a superb century as the West Indies piled up 297 for two on the first day of the three-day match against Ranji champions Railways Thursday.
At stumps, Darren Ganga was unbeaten on 66 and Marlon Samuels yet to open his account.
Railways bowlers were virtually sent on a leather hunt as Gayle (154) and Ganga added 225 runs for the second wicket to take the Caribbean total from 71 for one to 296 before a tired Gayle was bowled by pace bowler Harvinder Singh.
Earlier, the visitors, who had rested skipper Carl Hooper, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Mervyn Dillon and Pedro Collins, won the toss and stand-in captain Ridley Jacobs elected to bat.
The openers went into overdrive and were propelled by a quick-fire half-century by opener Wavell Hinds who scored 50.
Though off-spinner Kulamani Parida tasted success early dismissing Hinds caught by Jacob Martin in the slips, Railways hopes to further dent the confidence of visiting batsmen vanished as Gayle and Ganga took charge.
The duo tackled the three main spinners — Parida, Murali Kartik and Tejinderpal Singh with ease and scored at will. They used their feet well and often played the sweep shot to maximum effect.
Gayle, who played second fiddle when Hinds was on fire, took charge after the dismissal of his partner and played some glorious shots all round the wicket.
He struck 23 fours and two huge sixes, one each off Parida and Kartik, in his 294-ball knock that lasted almost six hours.
Gayle was particularly severe on Harvinder whom he drove through covers for two boundaries in one over before flicking Parida to square-leg fence.
He, however, got a life when Kartik put him down of his own bowling. The left-arm spinner trying to make a comeback into the Indian team had nothing to show for his efforts ending the day with figures of 29-0-79-0.
None of the Railways bowlers impressed and they sorely missed allrounder Sanjay Bangar who was asked by the BCCI to rest ahead of the third Test.
Ganga played the sheet anchor role to perfection. He hit some delightful square drives and sweep shots. He has so far faced 213 balls and hit 11 fours.
Railways captain Abhay Sharma took the new ball after 89 overs and was immediately rewarded when Harvinder sent back Gayle.
‘Very good wicket’
Gayle credited his century to the fine Nehru Stadium wicket and hoped to take his good form into the final Test in Calcutta.
“It was a very good wicket and I am satisfied with the way I batted,” said Gayle.
“I had watched the Railways bowlers very carefully in the morning. After I got my first 50, I was more confident as the wicket eased out, though the spinners troubled me quite a bit,” said the left-hander.
Gayle said he wanted to continue till the end but was surprised by a real quick delivery from Harvinder. “I could not sight it properly and even before I could defend, the ball had passed my bat.”
Railways skipper Abhay Sharma said his bowlers could have picked a couple of wickets more . Incidentally, Gayle was let off on 19 when Kartik spilled a caught and bowled chance. “We missed a couple of run outs as well and now we will have to bat really well,” he said. (PTI)