For close to thirty minutes, V Koushik stirred the emotions of the Karnataka faithful as his innocuous military-medium injected life to a contest which seemed destined to end in a draw.
Notwithstanding these moments which had the crowd oscillating between cheers and gasps, Karun Nair and Ankit Kalsi, the captains, shook hands outside the dressing room an hour later, signalling the end of their Group B Ranji Trophy contest at the SDNR Wadiyar stadium here on Saturday.
Karnataka’s players flanked coach Yere Goud for a substantial period of time as the players came off for tea with Himachal Pradesh, now steady at 34 for 2, after initially tottering at 22 for 2. They were in pursuit of 183 after Karnataka put up 296 all out in 108.3 overs.
HP, it was learnt later from Rishi Dhawan, who bagged five wickets in the second innings and named man of the match, weren’t going to push for an outright win. They had little reason to after taking the first-innings lead and the three points that come with it. It was Karnataka’s call to make, and Nair’s men decided to give their bowlers a reprieve with an eye on the three away games awaiting them. They came away with one point.
That said, had R Samarth’s valiant effort at first slip off Akash Vashisht’s edge stuck in seventh over, not only would Koushik have had three wickets in four overs, Karnataka may have pressed on longer.
Ifs and buts aside, Karnataka will feel better about their performance on the final day. Not to say that it absolves them of their shoddy show in the first stint after electing to bat, but it does give them a few positives to work with as they hit the road.
One of them is Nair’s return to form. The other: Devdutt Padikkal’s sustained brilliance en route to a 201-ball 99.
The duo, which added 135 runs as Karnataka crawled to 191/3 last evening, continued the day with an eye on seeing off early conditions. Nair looked good briefly but committed a grave error in offering shoulder arms to a nothing delivery from Vaibhav Arora. Still, he would be relieved of his overall tally of 145 runs in the match.
The partnership ended on 144, and Padikkal had a job to do. Ignoring the amateur dismissals of Shreyas Gopal and J Suchith, the 19-year-old left-hander closed in on his maiden first-class century. The straight-drive boundary that took him to 97 and the two runs which followed suggested he’d have no issues getting there.
Only Yeshwant Barde, the umpire, stood in the way, again. Padikkal looked to flick Arora and was adjudged leg before wicket. Not only was the delivery clearly headed down the leg, Padikkal also suggested that there was bat involved as he walked off with his head thrown to the clouds.
It was then down to BR Sharath (42) and Mithun to keep the hosts in the game. They added a crucial 46 runs for the ninth wicket to fade out Himachal’s hopes of an outright win.
With close to 50 overs left in the day, HP, theoretically at least, could have gone for it, but they needed to keep wickets intact. But once, Koushik got Priyanshu Khanduri to nick the keeper, the plan was off. Sumeet Verma’s dismissal only reiterated this.
With momentum and the crowd on his side, Koushik bowled a cracker to incite an edge from Vashisht. It was quick and dipping hard on Samarth. He stuck his hands out as a reaction but the ball wouldn’t stick. Just his luck.