Karnataka continued to assert their dominance in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, this time with a handsome nine-wicket win over Chhattisgarh in the semifinals at the M Chinnaswamy stadium on Wednesday.
The hosts bundled Chhattisgarh out for a lowly 223 in 49.4 overs, courtesy a fine bowling display from V Koushik, before Devdutt Padikkal (92) and K L Rahul (88 not out) smothered any hopes Chhattisgarh had with a stellar opening stance of 155 runs.
With the opening pair doing the bulk of the damage and Mayank Agarwal riding his India form en route an unbeaten 47, Karnataka reached 229 for 1 in 40 overs to cruise into the final for the fourth time. They will take on second semifinal victors Tamil Nadu in the summit tie on Friday (October 25).
While the result came as no surprise, it was indeed one that the venue didn’t receive any rainfall. Though it threatened to pour on numerous occasions, the grey clouds continued to pass by without harm.
Keeping these overcast conditions in mind, Karnataka opted to bowl, and Koushik kicked things off with an opening display worthy of his like-for-like predecessor - R Vinay Kumar. Prodigiously moving the new ball both ways, the military medium of Koushik (4/46) was unplayable to most of the top order.
Setting batsmen up with a series of in-swingers before an out-swinger was his modus operandi, and top three Chhattisgarh batsmen - Jiwanjot Singh, Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Singh - paid the price for not recognising the pattern. They let the bat hang and nicked behind the stumps. Rahul, retaining keeping duties for the game, held on to two and Agarwal pouched one easily at second slip.
Karnataka sniffed blood but didn’t go in for the kill, again. They let Chhattisgarh’s middle-order settle in through Amandeep Khare (78) and Sumit Ruikar (40). Eventually, Chhattisgarh put up a half-decent score.
However, with the pitch sunned out and an explosive Karnataka batting line-up waiting to display its might, it was always going to be a waltz.
Keeping the 20-over mark as a yardstick in case of rain and subsequent VJD-Method calculation, Rahul and Padikkal were forced to take lesser risks in that period, not wanting to lose a wicket and complicate matters.
Barring the dropped catch by Khare at point off Rahul’s cut on 25, Karnataka rode effortlessly to 82 for no loss in 20 overs. The par-score was 62 for no loss.
Thereafter, Rahul and Padikkal picked apart bowlers with the strokes they had reserved for shadow practice early on. Rahul, coming into this game after a 90 in the quarterfinal, looked classy when not impatient, but it was Padikkal who stole the show with his Yuvraj Singh-esque finishes. Much to the left-hander's dismay, all that elan didn’t translate into third century of the meet, as he was bowled by Ajay Mandal. Still, he tops the run-scorers list in the tournament with 598 from 10 innings.
With the contest nearly done, Rahul stayed the course by meriting the ball and Agarwal flexed his muscles by clearing the ropes.
Game. Set. Match.