Karnataka storm into final

Final day's play washed out as Vinay's men benefit from innings lead

Karnataka storm into final

The match ended just the way it had begun. The fifth and final day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal between Karnataka and Punjab was called off without a ball being bowled following a combination of bad light and frequent drizzles, thus reducing an important domestic match to a farcical affair.

Karnataka, who had taken 177-run first innings lead after finishing the weather-marred fourth day on 447 for five in reply to Punjab’s 270 all out, progressed to the final where they will meet Maharashtra from January 29 in Hyderabad. Karun Nair remained unbeaten on 151 (460m, 296b, 12x4) for his highest first-class score yet while Amit Verma may have just ensured himself a place for the final match with an undefeated 114 (305m, 265b, 17x4). This is the second time in the last four seasons that the six-time champions have entered the final. The previous time Karnataka were in the final in 2009-10, they had suffered a heart-breaking five-run loss against Mumbai in Mysore.

If Tuesday witnessed only 149 minutes of play, Wednesday turned out to be even worse as inclement conditions never allowed the game to begin. The sun made a few appearances but they were fleeting as the match was called off as early as 12.35 pm. The result of this match was a foregone conclusion when only 36.1 overs could be squeezed in on the penultimate day, effectively ruining Punjab’s slim hopes of a comeback. The only point of interest on the final day was if Karnataka would try and force a win to carry the psychological advantage with them. The weather, though, played havoc to scuttle any such eventuality.

Karnataka wouldn’t be complaining about the outcome even though it ended their six-match winning streak that began with their defeat of Odisha in group stage. The visitors, however, would have been happier to have more game-time going into the final. Punjab obviously had more reasons to feel disappointed. A mere 36 overs on the fourth and a complete washout on the final day meant they were denied the opportunity of a fightback.  

That less than two and a half day’s play was possible made light of the significance of this five-day contest. You don’t need to be an expert in weather forecasting to understand that winter days in north India are going to be affected by fog and sometimes rain as well. But the BCCI’s Tournament Committee, headed by Shivlal Yadav, chose to ignore this possibility despite concerns being voiced by many, including Uttar Pradesh coach Venkatesh Prasad, even before the semifinal schedule was drawn.  

“The semifinal game should have gone for five days,” said Punjab coach Bhupinder Singh (Senior). “The boys from both the teams should have enjoyed it. Having been on this journey over three months, I know winning and losing are a part of the game, but I wish the match had gone on for five days. That way, with the national selectors around, the boys would have got an opportunity to showcase their talent. Normally, we see that the weather opens up here around January, but it is advisable to take these semifinal games away from the north,” he reasoned.

Though his team ended on the right side of the result, Karnataka batting coach J Arunkumar wasn’t happy with the amount of play that was possible over the last five days. “There are so many other centres in the country where there is sunshine for five days during this time of the year,” he pointed out. “The match could have been held anywhere else. In centres like Mumbai or Ahmedabad there would have been no threat of rain. Even the home team players were complaining about the weather conditions. They could have surely had the semifinals at a different venue,” he remarked.

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