Mithun grabs six as Karnataka stay in the hunt

Maharashtra stage strong fightback

Abhimanyu Mithun’s career best first-class figures helped Karnataka raise visions of a win against Maharashtra on Monday.

However, the hosts fought back in stunning style to push the finish line a little bit further with one day left in their Group ‘B’ Ranji Trophy encounter at the Subrata Roy Sahara stadium.

On a cloudy morning, Karnataka, who had scored a mammoth 572 for nine declared, ran through Maharashtra’s batting line-up before they could come to terms with the conditions. In a mere 75 minutes since start of play, Mithun and skipper Stuart Binny operated non-stop from either end to bundle out Rohit Motwani’s men for a mere 99 in 29.1 overs.

Following that blitzkrieg, Karnataka’s bowlers were expected to carry their form through and wipe Maharashtra out just as easily in the second innings to score a bonus-point win which would have helped them a great deal at this juncture of the tournament.

Instead, Maharashtra, led by opener Harshad Khadiwale (136), made the most of Karnataka’s poor bowling display and defensive mind-set to score 315 for two at a spectacular rate of over four to frustrate the visitors. They trail Karnataka by 158 now with a day’s play remaining.

If they win by an innings or by ten wickets on Tuesday, Karnataka can finish with a tally of 22 points, adding seven to their present total of 15. With Uttar Pradesh (33) defeating Odisha (16) in Cuttack, Karnataka’s quarterfinal chances have improved but the result in the game between Delhi (17) and Vidardha (19) will be crucial.

If Delhi defeat Vidarbha they will move to 23 points to be second on the table. If Vidarbha manage a draw, Delhi will finish with three points (20) and crash out, leaving Karnataka and Baroda (22) in front. Even if Delhi do win, it will come down to run quotient between Karnataka and Baroda.

Maharashtra, 58 for one overnight, were hustled into submission by Mithun and Binny who bowled 13 overs between them and conceded a mere 41 runs, leaving Maharashtra trailing by 473 runs in the first innings.

While Binny’s spell (7-2-19-3) proved disastrous for Maharashtra, Mithun, operating at another level, sent the hosts spiralling to their doom.

The 23-year-old paceman bowled quick and made the most of the gloomy conditions, moving the ball around in the air and off the pitch, even if only a little. Mithun’s pace coupled with the movement caught Maharashtra off guard as the paceman had figures of six for 18 from six overs on the day (13.1-1-36-6 in the innings).

Mithun, whose previous best of 6/71 came against Mumbai in the 2009-2010 final in Mysore, was on a roll and in fact came close to completing a hat-trick. He got rid of Rohit Motwani and Shrikant Mundhe off successive balls in the 24th over to leave Maharashtra reeling at 80 for seven before Satyajit Bacchav played out the hat-trick ball.

As Maharashtra followed on, Khadiwale (136, 273 minutes, 193 balls, 19x4, 1x6) gave Karnataka a taste of their own medicine by putting on a fluent show en route to his ninth first-class century. Khadiwale put on a brilliant opening partnership of 156 runs with Sangram Atitkar (78, 134m, 94b, 12x4) before sending the Karnataka bowlers on a leather hunt in the company of Ankit Bawne (80 not out, 157m, 142b, 13x4).

H S Sharath, K Gowtham and debutant SK Moinuddin were taken apart by Khadiwale and his partners. The 24-year-old was especially severe on Moinuddin, carting him with utter disdain. However, it was Moinuddin who got rid of him late in the day to raise Karnataka’s quarterfinal hopes.

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