In-form Karnataka poised to enter final

Verma slams fine century on a day hit by bad light

In-form Karnataka poised to enter final

Bad light and frequent stoppages were the order of the day as ennui gripped the penultimate day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal between Karnataka and Punjab here at the PCA Stadium.

Players spent more time playing football and sepak takraw than cricket when a mere 149 minutes of play and 36.1 overs were possible. Karnataka, overnight 351/5, extended their total to 447 for five for an overall lead of 177 runs with overnight centurion Karun Nair (151 batting, 296b, 12x4) bringing up the second highest individual score for Karnataka this season and Amit Verma notching up his eighth first-class ton (114, 261b, 17x4) to virtually end Punjab’s hopes of a comeback.

After two sunny days, normalcy appeared to have been restored as Tuesday remained muggy with a hint of drizzle. Though the play began on time, stoppage looked imminent with the gradual deterioration of light.

The umpires eventually brought out the light meters and led the players off the field at 11.15 am. By then, Karnataka had faced 24.2 overs and added 66 runs. Verma, who was on 65 at stumps on Monday, also managed to get to his hundred by cutting Jaskaran Singh to square-leg fence to move from 99 to 103. The southpaw set for immediate celebration, acknowledging his team-mates in the dressing room and wind-milling his right-arm. One ball later, play was stopped for the first time.

“Obviously, it feels great,” said a relieved Verma who was playing his first game of the season. “I was a little bit under pressure at the start of the game. But I wanted to do well for the team and for myself. I thought ‘it’s a good opportunity for me in a big game and it will be good if I can do well in batting and bowling’,” he remarked. 

Verma admitted it was ‘quite tough’ to be not playing. The 26-year-old wasn’t even in the squad for the first few games and was included in the team only for the Mumbai game but the left-hander had to wait for another three games to get into the 11. “I love to play for Karnataka,” he began.

“I mean all of us have been playing for four-five years and get along with each other very well. We have played about 30-40 games together... It was a little tough for me to be sitting and watching. I badly wanted to get back into the side. I knew that it will happen sometime during the season but didn’t know when,” Verma offered.

His partner, Nair, too wasn’t willing to make it easy for Punjab. He survived a testing phase by Jaskaran who beat the right-hander a few times without managing a nick. Punjab skipper Harbhajan Singh was in his elements once again, purchasing good turn and bounce off the surface but the batsmen had spent enough time in the middle to see off his threat.

There was, however, a distinct lack of intensity on the part of home side for majority of curtailed play. With the game in their bag, Karnataka too seemed content to bat Punjab out of the game. The visiting batsmen did show streaks of aggression on the day but they were few and far between.   
              
Action resumed for the second time at 12.52 pm after lunch had been called, minimising the loss of play to about 55 minutes.

Barely 35 minutes were up when play had to be stopped again. Game began again after 42 minutes before it was halted after just 1.1 overs. The conditions didn’t improve after that and the umpires called it a day at 4.35 pm. 

 With just a day’s play left and the weather likely to remain inclement, it’s apparent who will be meeting Maharashtra in the final beginning in Hyderabad on January 29.


PUNJAB (I Innings): 270 all out.
KARNATAKA (I Innings; O/n: 351/5): Robin Uthappa lbw Harbhajan 47 (199m, 109b, 4x4, 1x6), KL Rahul c Khera b Gony 4 (11m, 7b, 1x4), Mayank Agarwal c Khera b Jaskaran 0 (39m, 23b), Manish Pandey c Khera b Sandeep 65 (215m, 131b, 6x4, 1x6), Karun Nair (batting) 151 (460m, 296b, 12x4), CM Gautam c Jiwanjot b Harbhajan 48 (87m, 55b, 7x4), Amit Verma (batting) 114 (305m, 265b, 17x4). Extras (LB-7, NB-9, W-2) 18. Total (for 5 wkts, 146.1 overs) 447.
Fall of wickets: 1-6 (Rahul), 2-23 (Agarwal), 3-94 (Uthappa), 4-158 (Pandey), 5-241 (Gautam).

Bowling: Sandeep Sharma 23-5-58-1 (nb-5), MS Gony 31-4-103-1 (nb-3), Jaskaran 25-5-89-1 (nb-1), Harbhajan Singh 33-3-98-2, Yuvraj Singh 4-0-14-0, Taruwar Kohli 12.1-1-42-0 (w-2), Gurkeerat Singh 18-3-36-0.

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