Karnataka bow out fighting

Vidarbha score thrilling five-run win to storm into maiden final

Karnataka bow out fighting

The beauty of first-class cricket lies in the time available to stage a comeback. On the eve of the concluding day, Vidarbha were at the doorsteps of victory. However, like in all classics, Karnataka's brilliant response turned the Ranji Trophy semifinal on its head.

Fluctuating fortunes, signs of aggression, nervous moments and what not. It was cricket at its thrilling best and in the end, Vidarbha won a cliffhanger by five runs.

Karnataka fought like a champion side to bring the game alive from the dead here at the Eden Gardens. Resuming from 111/7, still needing 87 for a place in the final, skipper R Vinay Kumar (36, 5x4, 1x6), Shreyas Gopal (24 n.o., 4x4) and Abhimanyu Mithun (33, 5x4) almost pulled off an improbable task. Mithun's counter-attacking approach, in the company of a composed Shreyas, had taken Karnataka to 189/8. With nine runs needed, it demanded sensible batting. But Mithun attempted a hoik of Rajneesh Gurbani only to offer a simple catch to third man.

The wicket brought back the belief in Vidarbha who nearly let the game slip away. Gurbani scalped number 11 S Arvind in the first ball of his next over to trigger wild celebrations in the Vidarbha camp. It was a historic moment for the Chandrakant Pandit coached side as they made their first entry into a Ranji summit clash. They will face Delhi in the final at the Holkar Stadium in Indore from December 29.

"It was a bad shot from me and I should have just left it. Later with nine runs requiring, Mithun maybe could have been more sensible. Maybe they were destined to be in the final," said a dejected Vinay.

Vidarbha's dream season just got better and the young Gurbani was once again their hero. The right-arm medium pacer single-handedly won the challenge against the mighty Karnataka batting to finish with 7/68. The 24-year-old, who had bagged a fifer in the first innings, was adjudged the player of the match.      

Karnataka, the tournament favourites, saw their near-perfect campaign come to a heart-breaking end. Following thorough domination till the last-four clash, their quest for a ninth Ranji title continued thanks to an average performance in all three departments in the crucial fixture.

Earlier, overnight batsmen Vinay and Shreyas used their experience to make smooth progress. While Gurbani built pressure from one end, Umesh Yadav's tactic to bowl short didn't help Vidarbha much. Karnataka lost Vinay at a crucial juncture and the skipper had only himself to blame for. In an over in which Gurbani had conceded three boundaries, Vinay needlessly went for a cut away from the body and perished caught behind.

A gutted Vinay had a small chat with Shreyas and Mithun before walking off to the pavilion. The discussed plan seemed to work as Mithun used his bottom hand to good effect and released pressure from Karnataka by scoring briskly. He shuffled across too much to disturb the rhythm of the bowlers and slammed boundaries of Umesh, Gurbani and left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate. Shreyas held the other end firm and showed fine technique and timing to gather his runs.

Mithun's hasty decision left Karnataka's hopes hanging in balance. Vidarbha seized the moment and scripted the upset of the tournament to advance.

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