Ranji Trophy: Karnataka rise against odds

Binnys men pull off a brilliant eight-wicket victory to storm into quarterfinals

Ranji Trophy: Karnataka rise against odds

Karnataka were in need of a miracle to qualify to the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy from a tightly packed Group ‘B’.

At different junctions of the game it seemed like they would not have it their way but at the end of three tantalising sessions on the final day, their wish was granted as Stuart Binny’s men posted a stunning eight-wicket win over Maharashtra at the Subrata Roy Sahara stadium here on Tuesday to advance.

With this victory, Karnataka added six points to their total of 15 and moved to third on the table behind Baroda (22) and Uttar Pradesh (33) from eight league games. As Odisha (16) were out of the race on Monday, it all came down to Delhi’s match against Vidarbha.

Delhi were unable to force a victory in the game and grabbed only three points for the innings lead in Nagpur, leaving both the teams with 20 points and out of quarterfinal reckoning.

But before it could come down to equations and the possibility of advancing, the Karnataka camp had a very tough job to do. Coming into this match after mediocre showing, Karnataka scored 572 runs to take the drivers’ seat. They scythed through Maharashtra in their first innings by bundling the hosts out for a mere 99.

Following on with over 400 runs ahead of them, the chances of Maharashtra setting Karnataka a target to chase down seemed unlikely despite Harshad Khadiwale (136) doing some damage on Monday. But Ankit Bawne put on a show worthy of praise and along with the rest of Maharashtra’s middle-order, batted out of their skins to carry Maharashtra to 561 all out in 148.2 overs.

Set a target of 89 from 13 mandatory overs, Karnataka had to dig deeper than they had all season to get out of this one. Their fate also depended on the match between Delhi and Vidarbha that was turning out to be a thriller with the hosts needing to scalp three of the visitors’ wickets in the last few overs to claim six points.

If Delhi had managed to do that then Karnataka would have had to win by ten wickets to score a bonus point and battle it out with Baroda on run quotient for the last qualifying spot. As luck would have it Delhi could not pick the last three Vidarbha wickets, leaving Karnataka with the task of winning the match.

In an entertaining 11.4-over session, Karnataka  scored 92 runs for two to celebrate the New Year with a sense of relief. After losing Kunal Kapoor (8) cheaply with the score on 22, Binny promoted himself up the order and took it to pacers Samad Fallah and Sachin Chaudhri.

K L Rahul (42 not out, 61 minutes, 34 balls, 5x4) and Binny (25, 31m, 17b, 1x4) added a quick 47 runs for the second wicket to take Karnataka to a healthy 69 for one before the latter was bowled by a faster one from Satyajit Bacchav. Requiring 19 runs to win from 18 balls, CM Gautam (16 not out) walked in and took the game away from Maharashtra.

The 26-year-old, who had struck a crucial four off a no-ball from Fallah in the eleventh over to bring the equation down to a comfortable seven to win from 12, reverse-swept the third ball of the twelfth over from Bacchav to the boundary and then struck the left-arm orthodox bowler to another boundary to give his team-mates a gift they will not forget. 

Earlier, Karnataka had to toil with the conditions not as favourable to their pacers as it were on Monday. The lack of breeze and bright sunshine deprived HS Sharath and Abhimanyu Mithun of any movement and Binny’s absence from the field for nearly 15 overs because of a strained quadriceps hurt Karnataka.

While the bowlers toiled away, Bawne (155 not out, 483m, 354b, 24x4, 1x6) was getting into great groove. Feeding off bad deliveries, the right-hander played a composed innings to throw a spanner into Karnataka’s hopes. Eventually Sharath (4/100) and Mithun (3/122) got rid of Maharashtra’s batsmen, leaving their batsmen to do the rest.

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