Gautam ton puts Karnataka in total control

Vinay's men close in on huge win

Gautam ton puts Karnataka   in total control

In a performance befitting the champions, Karnataka gained further ascendancy against Rest of India to all but seal the Irani Cup in their favour.

A healthy 189 runs ahead overnight in reply to RoI’s 201 all out, Karnataka posted their highest total of the season – 606 all out – to gain a whopping 405-run lead.

Skipper R Vinay Kumar, whose six-wicket haul on the opening day had destroyed the Rest innings, once again prised out Jiwanjot Singh and Gautam Gambhir early in the innings to leave the visitors struggling at 114 for three at close on Wednesday’s third day here at the Chinnaswamy stadium.

Shreyas Gopal accounted for a well-set Kedar Jadhav (44) as Harbhajan Singh’s men were left with an uphill task of scoring another 291 runs even to avoid an innings defeat.

On a surface where batting was an easier occupation if you applied yourself, Karnataka batsmen made merry against an attack that just appeared to go through the motions.

The tireless Pankaj Singh, who maintained the same intensity and pace through his long spells, was the only bowler who looked like making any impact and not surprisingly he bagged a richly deserved six-wicket haul (6/122) that also saw him reach the 300-wicket mark in first-class cricket.

In the absence of any support from the other end, the tall paceman kept toiling away but his lion-hearted display, though quite satisfactory on a personal level, may just go in vain.
Pankaj’s impressive performance on the day was more than matched by the batsmanship of CM Gautam (122, 244m, 168b, 17x4, 1x6) and other tail-enders.

Though overnight centurion Stuart Binny (122, 198m, 122b, 14x4, 3x6) fell early in the first session, Gautam brought up his season’s second century that was at once pleasing and punishing.

In the process of scoring his century, Binny and his father Roger became the only father-son combination to register Irani hundreds. Roger, a former India paceman and currently a member of the National selection panel, had struck 158 against Rest of India at Rajkot in 1983-84.   

Having endured mixed fortunes in the first half of his Ranji campaign, Gautam began his resurgence with an even 100 against Uttar Pradesh in the quarterfinal here last month.

While another big score eluded him in the semifinal and final, it was around the corner given the confidence and comfort with which he had been batting.       
 
Gautam had left the aggressor role to Binny as long as the all-rounder was in the middle but once he departed by inside-edging a Pankaj delivery, the wicketkeeper-batsman took charge of the situation. The right-hander brought out a repertoire of strokes among which the pulls off pacers and the reverse sweeps against Amit Mishra and Baba Aparajith stood out.

While Gautam faced little difficulty, the Rest bowlers weren’t able to make much of an impact on the other batsmen either. Vinay (31), who promoted himself ahead of Shreyas, shared an 88-run association with Gautam while Shreyas (16) hung around for a 57-run stand for the eighth wicket.

With A Mithun (34 n.o.) using the long handle to good effect, Gautam added another 61 runs for the ninth wicket before falling to Pankaj, who was inviting the batsman to pull with a series of short-pitched balls.

Accepting the challenge, Gautam sent the bowler for two consecutive fours before miscuing the third one to be caught at square leg. Pankaj cleaned up last man HS Sharath two balls later to cap off a brilliant spell (6-0-19-3) but the damage had already been done and perhaps beyond repair.

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