Karnataka reign comes to an end

Karnataka reign comes to an end

Karnataka reign comes to an end

A proud and long unbeaten streak came to a disappointing end on Friday. Karnataka, Ranji Trophy champions for the last two seasons and unbeaten for 34 games, finally stumbled, suffering a 53-run loss to Maharashtra and failing to pro­gress to the quarterfinals of the national championships.

On a day when hopes flickered for Karnataka, captain Vinay Kumar staged a rearguard action, working hard to survive for 68 minutes to forge an alliance of 49 runs with CM Gautam for the seventh wicket. But once the skipper edged an excellent rising delivery from Nikit Dhumal to the wicketkeeper, it was as good as over for the defending champions. The last recognised pair’s stand was broken and the Karnataka dug-out presented a despondent look, fearing the inevitable. 

Chasing a challenging total of 293 on the concluding day in their final Group ‘A’ encounter here at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, the visitors folded for 239. Maharashtra, lying eighth in the group before the start of the match, had not registered a single victory in the season. But a rejuvenated side, led by stand-in skipper Kedar Jadhav, spoilt Karnataka’s quest.

Vidarbha, Bengal and Assam qualified for the quarterfinals from Group A. After failing to get the first-innings lead, Karnataka had pushed themselves into a must-win situation. But the famed batting line up succumbed to a top notch bowling unit, lead by Nikit. The 24-year-old’s figures of five for 78 paved the way for Maharashtra’s success and the right-arm medium pacer’s match haul of eight wickets earned him the man of the match prize.

The defeat brought an end to Karnataka’s unbeaten streak built over three seasons and dashed their dream of hat-trick of Ranji titles.  Karnataka had last bowed out in the league stage of the tournament in the 2007-08 edition. Barring CM Gautam’s battling 65 and Uthappa’s well made half-century (61), there were no major contributions from the Karnataka batsmen, some whom lacked application. 

Anupam Sanklecha sent back Mayank Agarwal in the third over of the day to give Maharashtra a good start. In the very next over, Karnataka got into a spot of bother with the dismissal of their key batsman Manish Pandey. The right-hander tried to pull a short delivery pitched way outside off stump but decided against it at the last moment, only to edge the ball and hand an easy catch to Rahul Tripathi at first slip. After Pandey’s soft dismissal, Shreyas Gopal was promoted up the order and the youngster played well to forge a 40-run stand with overnight batsman Robin Uthappa.

But the hosts came back strongly to remove both Shreyas and Karun Nair, who gave a simple return catch to Nikit while attempting a pull. Uthappa exhibited immense concentration and technique while striking six fours and two sixes. But the experienced campaigner tried to play a full length delivery across the line and missed it, to be adjudged leg before wicket to pacer Anupam Sanklecha.

With the run chase heading nowhere, vice-captain Gautam, who was short of runs on this season, waged a lone battle. Rotating strike and getting the odd boundary, Gautam’s innings was what the doctor ordered for Karnataka, considering the context of the match. Gautam’s valuable innings, which had seven boundaries, gave a slight scare to the visitors but the right-hander ran out of partners as Maharashtra celebrated.

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