Undisputed champions!

Undisputed champions!

Vinay Kumar's Karnataka outclass Tamil Nadu by an innings and 217 runs to retain crown

Undisputed champions!

Tamil Nadu skipper Abhinav Mukund flashed a wry smile when asked to describe Karnataka’s domination. “There is Karnataka at 1, 2, 3 and from four there are lot of other teams.”

It was a perfect description of Karnataka’s absolute supremacy of Indian domestic circuit that on Thursday transformed into an innings and 217-run victory over Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy final here at Wankhede stadium on a sunny Thursday. Tamil Nadu were bowled out for 411 in their second innings after conceding an innings lead of 628 runs.
It was Karnataka’s second successive title triumph and their eighth overall. Now, Karnataka is the second most successful side in Ranji Trophy, one ahead of Delhi.

There was this lingering sense of inevitability once Tamil Nadu started the fifth day at 113 for three. Seven quick strikes and Karnataka would be at the zenith. But it didn’t come that easily. First, Baba Aparajith and Vijay Shankar, the two overnight batsmen, resisted the charge of Karnataka with a gritty partnership.

From the overnight 34, their fourth-wicket stand quickly swelled to 112 off 202 balls. But a moment of brilliance from Robin Uthappa ended that blossoming alliance. Aparajith (68) trickled down a leg-side delivery from pacer S Arvind and Uthappa pounced it on like a tiger, diving to his left. But still Karnataka quite didn’t manage to run through the Tamil Nadu line-up.

Dinesh Karthik was the man responsible for delaying Karnataka’s pre-written tryst with destiny. The Tamil Nadu right-hander tore into the Karnataka bowling line-up with gusto. Drives, cuts and pulls fetched him runs at a brisk clip en route to a superb hundred (120 off 112 balls, 21x4, 1x6).

In Shankar, who made a much more sedate 103 off 164 balls, Karthik had a fine partner. The two Tamil Nadu batsmen added 115 runs for the fifth wicket in just 123 balls in, perhaps, the liveliest passage of play in this match. In fact, 82 of Karthik’s 100 came off 19 boundaries and a six. But the cameo came too late as ship was already well away from the dock. As he had done so often, R Vinay Kumar broke the partnership. The Karnataka captain made one ball climb up to Shankar’s chest, and the batsman’s awkward attempt to play a pull ended only in a tame return catch.

However, Karthik continued in the same vein, scattering the Karnataka bowlers to all corners. Soon after reaching the three-figure mark, Karthik edged Arvind to Uthappa behind the stumps. Just as he began the trudge back to the hut, umpire called him back because Arvind had over-stepped. But that didn’t hold Karnataka back longer.

Karthik soon skied Shreyas Gopal, who bagged four wickets in this innings, to Arvind in the deep. Once Karthik departed it was just a matter of time. R Prasanna, Malolan Rangarajan and Aswin Crist made casual visits to the crease before falling to the guiles of Karnataka bowlers.

The much-anticipated moment came at 3.25 pm. Rangarajan edged Arvind to Manish Pandey at slips. Karnataka players looked a moment to the direction of Tamil Nadu dressing room. No one was there waiting with his pads on, with the injured Prashanth Parameshwaran not batting. After nearly 14 weeks of trials and tribulations, Karnataka were champions.

Players melted into each other’s embrace, then posed with the trophy – individually and as a group. Wives and girlfriends of some of the players cheered for their beaus. Suddenly, the seriousness of cricket turned into a party atmosphere. Let the party begin then. They deserve every bit of it.

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