Karun slams ton as Karnataka stay ahead

Right-hander's 148 n.o. helps former champs take crucial 109-run lead

Karun slams ton as Karnataka stay ahead

Kolkata: Karun Nair is not the one to get bogged down by pressure. He is a master at turning adversity into advantage.

Walking out to bat with Karnataka at 21/2 on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Vidarbha, Karun survived a small yet brilliant session of fast bowling to remain unbeaten on six. At the end of second day's play here at the Eden Gardens on Monday, Vidarbha still hadn't found a way to dismiss the Karnataka batsman.

It wasn't the easiest of wickets to bat on but displaying the character of a champion player, Karun slammed an unbeaten 148 (261b, 20x4, 1x6) as Karnataka reached 294/8 at stumps and gained a crucial first innings lead of 109 runs. Karnataka's recovery, from a wobbly situation of 36/3 at the start of the day, was possible thanks to two important partnerships. Veteran C M Gautam struck a timely 73 (125b, 8x4) and was involved in a 139-run stand with Karun in the first session.

Gautam, who was untroubled by an ordinary pace bowling from Vidarbha, threw his wicket away in the final over before lunch. Rajneesh Gurubani (5/90), who tirelessly bowled in the right channels, capitalised on that important breakthrough. The right-arm medium pacer's lethal spell after lunch, which saw him dismiss three Karnataka batsmen in the span of four overs, put the match in balance. Skipper R Vinay Kumar, a fighter without doubt, offered support to Karun. The captain-vice-captain duo forged an unbroken alliance of 69 to save the sinking ship. Vinay, finding it hard to run due to a leg injury, showed great grit to score a valuable 20 not out.

Earlier, Karun and Gautam pounced on every scoring opportunity. The duo ran well between the wickets to ease the pressure. Gautam, who brought up his half-century with a cracking straight drive off Faiz Fazal, fell to a needless shot. He uppishly cut a short and wide delivery of Umesh Yadav straight to deep point.

Karun exhibited great patience and saw off the dangerous Gurbani by not fishing too much outside the off stump. It was clean hitting by the 25-year-old and he got boundaries through some delightful flicks of the wrists and drives on the off side. The added confidence of having crossed the 100-run mark was evident when he executed upper cuts and paddle sweeps with ease.

Karun's stay in the middle was vital for Karnataka after they slumped from 160/4 to 198/7 in the second session when Gurbani took control of the proceedings. Stuart Binny edged one to the wicketkeeper and Shreyas Gopal poked a moving delivery to be caught at first slip by Fazal. K Gowtham too didn't last long. Karun though hung on and the right-hander paced his innings well to score his third ton of the season.

"It was important for us to keep batting with discipline. That's what C M and I did. I told myself that I will keep playing straight and play on the merit of the ball and it helped," said Karun.

DH News Service

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