The perfect Christmas present

The perfect Christmas present

Karnataka ended their 71-year wait for an outright win over Mumbai in Ranji Trophy with a thumping 160-run triumph that also ensured their qualification to the knockout stage with still a match to go against Delhi.

On the final day of their Group A match here at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday, Karnataka, who folded up for 299 after resuming at their overnight score of 287/8 to set Mumbai a target of 282 from a minimum of 83 overs, bundled out the visitors for a pitiable 121 in 51.3 overs that put an end to defending champions’ unbeaten run for seven years in the premier national tournament.

Mumbai had last suffered an outright loss in December 2006 against Hyderabad at the Uppal stadium. While Karnataka stormed into the quarterfinals with 32 points, only a win against Gujarat (26) will put Mumbai (23) in contention for a place in the knockouts.

Having let Mumbai eke out an 18-run lead after leaving them teetering at 129/6 in pursuit of 251 on the second day, Karnataka bowlers made up for their slip-up with skipper and pace spearhead R Vinay Kumar setting the tone with two scalps upfront.

In fact, all the three frontline pacemen – Vinay, A Mithun and HS Sharath – were right on the money while debutant all-rounder Shreyas Gopal lent the right balance with his leg-spinners. On a pitch where batting increasingly became a difficult proposition, Manish Pandey’s sparkling hundred on the penultimate day proved as crucial as the concerted effort from the bowling unit on the final day. Admittedly, Mumbai with the exception of skipper Wasim Jaffer didn’t have much experience in their line-up but that hardly should take anything away from home team’s historic win.    

In a fine display of new-ball bowling, Vinay -- showing little signs of the ankle trouble that had kept him off field on the second day -- accounted for debutant D Subramanian (13) and Aditya Tare (0) with two contrasting deliveries. While he had Subramanian playing all over for an away-shaping ball, he cleaned up Tare with one that jagged back into the right-hander.

This was the start Karnataka needed and a pumped-up home attack soon reduced the visitors to 50 for four, removing Jaffer and an obdurate Kaustubh Pawar. Mithun, shedding off his ankle niggle, worked up good speed and kept the pressure on before having Jaffer snick him to slip. Sharath, who scalped three in the second innings to go with his five-wicket haul in the first, had Pawar edge one behind to CM Gautam.
 
A fortuitous Hiken Shah and Siddesh Lad stemmed the rot with a 43-run stand for the fifth wicket before the introduction of Shreyas did the trick for the hosts. The 20-year-old trapped Shah with the last ball of his first over and then had Suryakumar Yadav edge one to Karun Nair at slip in a spell of 4-2-13-2. In between Lad had fallen to a well-laid trap -- pulling Sharath to square-leg where Shreyas had been positioned specifically for the shot.

At 93 for seven, the only doubt left was whether the match will prolong beyond the tea interval.

Egged on by a small but vocal crowd, man of the match Sharath (8/69 for the match) clocked good speed and left the tail-enders a harried lot with his well-directed bouncers. Saurabh Netrawalkar, who was hit on his helmet by Sharath, walked across to a full ball to be adjudged lbw while Mithun cleaned up Shardul Thakur just before tea to extend the session. And it wasn’t long before Vinay wrapped up the proceedings by ending Javed Khan’s resistance for a famous win.

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