Deepak Hooda. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Deepak Hooda has a reputation of being a hard-hitting batsman in T20 cricket, but he is no less proficient in the longer version of the game. If he has a strike rate of 141 in T20, he averages over 50 in first-class cricket, with his unbeaten 293 for Baroda against Punjab last season as his highest.
Hooda showed his prowess again when he struck a brilliant 133 to help India Blue take the crucial first innings lead against India Red to keep their hopes of a berth in the Duleep Trophy final alive.
India Blue now run into India Green from Tuesday in the last league match to decide who will take on India Red in the final in Lucknow later this month.
India Red had defeated India Green in the first match to collect six points and the drawn match on Saturday has ensured their passage into the title clash.
After rain had washed out third day's play, the match at the Green Park stadium had become a battle of first innings on the final day. Once Hanuma Vihari got out after scoring his 11th first class hundred (105), the onus fell on Hooda to guide his team and he did not disappoint, with lower order batsmen Jaydev Undatkat and Bhargava Bhatt giving him ample support.
After Vihari and Ishan Kishan fell in quick succession, it was Hooda who took total control and was not afraid to play the ball in the air. He had three sixes and 14 fours during his knock that settled the issue of who takes the honour in the drawn game.
The game, however, will be remembered for the double century on Duleep Trophy debut by Baba Indrajith, emulating the feat of his twin brother Baba Aparajith who too had got a double hundred on his Duleep debut two years ago. And it required a century each by Vihari and Hooda to overshadow Indrajith's effort.
Blue skipper Suresh Raina praised the effort of the batsmen saying, "after the third day was washed out it was not easy for us and with a bit of moisture on the pitch and the outfield a damp, it was a challenge for our batsmen. I am glad, Vihari and Hooda stuck to the task and the tailenders too showed determination to stick around."