Days after helping India win their maiden Test series in Australia, Cheteshwar Pujara guided Saurashtra to a record-breaking 372-run chase against Uttar Pradesh in the second quarter-final of the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy on Sunday.
Pujara, the man of the series in the just concluded Border-Gavaskar Trophy, remained unbeaten on 67 as Saurashtra beat UP by six wickets at Lucknow. The 30-year-old, who was the main attraction of the match, batted four down after openers Harvik Desai (116) Snell Patel (72) posted 132 runs without losing a wicket.
They reached the target losing only four wickets in the 115.1 overs.
The previous highest run chase in a fourth innings in India's premier domestic tournament was 371 by Assam against Services in the 2008-09 season.
In the semis, Saurashtra will face Karnataka, while Vidarbha face Kerala in the other last-four match.
Starting the day at 195 for two, still 177 adrift, Desai started brightly for Saurashtra. But they soon lost the other overnight batsman Kamlesh Makvana for 7, dismissed by Yash Dayal.
The wicket hardly had any effect on Desai as he continued aggressively and scored 20 of the 33 runs in the day through boundaries.
Desai, however, was dismissed after posting his maiden First-Class century by Saurabh Kumar, who had been wicketless in the match till then. The 19-year-old nicked one to Uttar Pradesh wicketkeeper. His 116 came off 259 balls with the help of 16 boundaries.
With Saurashtra still needing 136 runs, Desai's wicket gave some hope to UP and it also enticed the hosts to take the new ball after 85 overs.
But Pujara and Sheldon Jackson batted sensibly. The UP seamers drew a couple of outside edges but they all fell well short of the slip fielders.
Pujara, who had struggled in the first innings, looked solid in defence and authoritative in his shot-making as he and Jackson took Saurashtra to 298 for four at Lunch.
With wickets not coming their way, the UP players looked dispirited after lunch as Saurashtra clinched the win just an hour into the second session.
In other quarter-final matches, defending champions Vidarbha defeated Uttarakhand by an innings and 115 runs at Nagpur, Karnataka beat Rajasthan by six wickets at Bengaluru, while Kerala beat Gujarat by 113 runs at Wayanad.
Both the semi-finals will be played from January 24 to 28. Venues of the fixtures will be announced later.
Uttar Pradesh: 385 & 194 vs Saurashtra: 208 & 372 for 4 in 115.1 overs (Harvik Desai 116, Sheldon Jackson 73 not out, Snell Patel 72, Cheteshwar Pujara 67 not out; Akashdeep Nath 1/17).
(With PTI inputs)