Rahul ton in vain as Karnataka lose

Rahul ton in vain as Karnataka lose

Punjab ride on young Gill's 123 to eke out 4-run win

Rahul ton in vain as Karnataka lose

K L Rahul almost stole the limelight from under-19 World Cup winning star Shubman Gill. The Group 'A' Vijay Hazare Trophy encounter between Karnataka and Punjab lived up to its billing of clash of two heavyweights and it was the rising 18-year-old who was left smiling in the end.

Due to wet outfield, the game was reduced to a 42-overs per side and following a 90-minute delayed start, the match turned out to be an absorbing contest between bat and ball right till the finish. Gill was a picture of great temperament and skill in his splendid 122-ball 123 (8x4, 6x6) as Punjab, having elected to bat, posted a formidable 269/3.

Rahul (107, 91b, 8x4, 5x6) then brought Karnataka back in the game from the dead with a brilliantly paced knock. At 61/3 in the 13th  over, with three in-form batsmen R Samarth (13), Mayank Agarwal (28) and Karun Nair (9) back in the hut, the hosts were in a precarious situation. But along with southpaw Pavan Deshpande (53, 51b, 4x4, 1x6), the India international staged a splendid fightback with a 100-run stand to bring Karnataka to the verge of victory.

However, Punjab pacer Barinder Sran (2/76) turned from villain to hero. The left-arm pacer, who had given away 17 runs in the 32nd  over, had a tough day at office. But he stepped up when it mattered the most by just giving away 10 runs from the 40th  and 42nd  over to help Punjab clinch a nervy four-run victory.

Sran tilted the game in Punjab's favour when he scalped Rahul in the 40th  over. Rahul attempted to pull a short ball but top-edged it to fine leg to walk back dejected as Karnataka needed 16 from 21 balls. The equation came to 13 from the final with skipper R Vinay Kumar (26 n.o.) and T Pradeep in the middle. Sran used the slower bowl to good use and varied his length cleverly to deny Karnataka the win. The hosts finished at 265/8.

It was Karnataka's first defeat of the tournament and they next face Odisha  on Tuesday  at the Alur I ground. Vinay's men are atop with 10 points from four games. Railways, with eight points from three matches, are second.

Earlier, Vinay removed Manan Vohra caught at slips of the very first ball of the innings but Mandeep Singh (64, 76b, 4x4, 2x6) and Gill forged a patient alliance of 125 runs. Gill was comfortable against the spinners and his two straight sixes off K Gowtham and leggie Pravin Dubey, who was in the side for the injured Shreyas Gopal, were some of the highlights of his quality knock. He changed gears post his half-century and took risks that helped Punjab dominate the bowlers.

In what was an average effort from the Karnataka bowlers, Dubey (0/58) and Prasidh (0/59) were wayward while Gowtham (0/53) had a rare off-day.

Rahul's class was at display when he began finding the gaps after a cautious start. In the final ten overs, Karnataka needed 81 runs and it was Rahul who gave tense moments to the Punjab camp with his array of shots. The stylish right-hander enthralled the good  Sunday-turnout with two sixes that came off a scoop and late cut. He reached his ton with a six of a pull off Manpreet Singh Grewal but Rahul's lovely performance didn't have a fitting climax.