Vijaywada: Young Indian Test-aspirant Gautam Gambhir cracked a career-best 218 in a tour game against Zimbabwe on Friday to press his claim on the upcoming cricket series against the tourists.
The 20-year-old opener smashed 39 fours in his second double-century in first-class cricket as Board President's XI posted 361 for three on the opening day of a three- day match against the Zimbabweans. Skipper Rahul Dravid, who missed the recent One-day series against England due to a shoulder-injury, took time to settle down as he scored a patient 50 off 131 balls. Gambhir's aggressive knock came just when India are looking for a reliable opening partner for Shiv Sunder Das in the forthcoming two-Test series against Zimbabwe. India will name its squad on Sunday for the opening Test, starting at Nagpur on February 21. The Delhi left-hander exposed the tourists' bowling limitations during his 284-ball knock, racing from 180 to 200 with five fours, including four boundaries in a seamer Heath Streak over. Gambhir dominated the Zimbabwean attack with a wide range of attacking shots, driving and cutting firmly before being caught by Andy Flower in the slips off seamer Mpumelelo Mbangwa. He put on 87 for the opening wicket with Gagan Khoda (41), 175 for the second with Dravid and 94 for the third with Abhijit Kale (40 not out). Zimbabwe, blanked 3-0 in a Test series in Sri Lanka last month, began its tour on an unimpressive note as none of its bowlers could trouble the home team's batsmen. Streak initially contained runs with a testing line and length, but received no support from the other end as the tourists took one wicket in the first session and two in the last. Left-arm spinner Raymond Price grabbed two for 102 off 26 overs and Mbangwa one for 41 off 19. Gambhir and Khoda thrived on a mediocre Zimbabwean bowling, plundering 42 in seamer Brighton Watambwa's opening eight overs after their team had elected to bat on an easy-paced pitch. Gambhir rarely looked in trouble during his long stay at the crease, reaching his century in the post-lunch session with a swept four off Price. Khoda was the lone batsman to be dismissed in the morning session, caught at mid-on by Travis Friend while going for a big shot off Price. He hit six boundaries and one six in his 80-ball knock. Dravid, trying to regain form after a long lay-off, played a few attractive shots in the closing session before being caught behind while attempting to cut Price.
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