Gautam, Binny slam tons to prop up Karnataka

Visitors reach 306/4 on opening day

CM Gautam pulled off another remarkable rescue act to keep Karnataka in hunt for a spot in the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy here on Saturday.

The right-hander came in with Karnataka in state of disarray and steadied the ship along with skipper Stuart Binny to carry the team to a respectable 306 for four on day one, with both the batsmen hammering unbeaten centuries at the Subrata Roy Sahara stadium here.

Put into bat, Karnataka lost both their openers with a mere 18 runs on the board. Kunal Kapoor, who came into the match with back-to-back centuries against Haryana in Hubli, and Gautam both looked scratchy to begin with but the latter eased himself into the situation by going all guns blazing against Maharashtra’s bowlers.

But the dismissal of Kunal (30) and Ganesh Satish’s (6) run-out ten runs later left Karnataka tottering at 91 for four. It required something special from their experienced middle-order to take the team out of the mess and Gautam, who is Karnataka’s highest run-getter this season with 790 runs from 12 innings, and Binny stepped up to the task with aplomb.

Gautam assessed the situation well and took the low-risk approach to work his way to an unbeaten 132 (343m, 261b, 13x4, 1x6) while Binny was his aggressive self, reaching 115 not out (142b, 15x4, 2x6) at close.

Gautam opted to ditch his usual free-flowing style of play for a more cautious approach initially. Dropped by Maharashtra skipper and wicket-keeper Rohit Motwani, he shed his inhibitions and struck a balance between attack and defence, carting Maharashtra’s bowlers to all corners of the ground whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Binny, meanwhile, was a storm Maharashtra would have wished to have contained a lot earlier. Starting his innings with an array of boundaries, Binny, who was dropped on 21 by Harshad Khadiwale at first slip off Sachin Chaudhari before striking successive sixes off Sachin Bacchav in the following over, raced to his hundred, his first this season.

With both the batsmen looking set at the crease, Maharashtra figured soon enough that there were going to have to toil an entire day on a pitch which offered no assistance after the day’s opening hour. K L Rahul (4) and Robin Uthappa (13) started proceedings looking rather timid and Samad Fallah and Shrikant Mundhe hit the right spots, beating their prods.

Eventually, they ran out of luck. Uthappa’s attempted drive off Mundhe took the edge and carried to Motwani and a couple of deliveries later Rahul sheepishly cut at a short and wide ball from Chaudhari to leave Karnataka in a vulnerable situation. That was before Gautam and Binny came to the party. The duo added 215 runs for the fifth wicket – Karnataka’s highest fifth wicket partnership this season.

More than that, they saved Karnataka some humiliation and once again opened up that window of opportunity through which they could potentially sneak into the quarterfinals.

Stuart follows in father’s footsteps

As Stuart Binny dabbed a single off Shrikant Mundhe to the cover region, he celebrated his first century in this Ranji Trophy season with gusto.

The 28-year-old may have taken a moment longer basking in the applause had he known that he had achieved a rare feat in Karnataka cricket.

Stuart had just joined his dad Roger as the only father-son duo to score centuries for Karnataka as captain.

Roger had hit an unbeaten 101 against Andhra during the 1983-84 season. Roger and Stuart are the only father and son duo to have ever led Karnataka in Ranji Trophy.

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