Echoes of leather on seemingly unseasoned wood, muted celebrations from Karnataka players and the clattering of stumps reverberated through the M Chinnaswamy stadium on a perfect Saturday morning.
Although Prerak Mankad and Chirag Jani added to the resonance with firm hits to and over the fence, drawing applause from a smattering of people, Karnataka had done enough, early enough, through Prasidh Krishna (5/19) and V Koushik (3/23) to entertain hopes of yet another win in their Group A Vijay Hazare Trophy contest.
It took Karnataka 36.4 overs to get the job done, cruising to 213 for 2 in Devdutt Padikkal’s 103 not out and Pandey’s 67 not out as a response to Saurashtra’s tally of 206 all out in 47.2 overs. The win, Karnataka’s sixth in seven games, ensured their place in the quarterfinals.
Saurashtra can’t be too displeased with the scale of this loss, especially given their position early in the game. Reduced to 37 for 6 after being asked to bat with a dense grey cover overhead, Saurashtra’s ability to contest against the winningest team on the cross pool table looked bleak at best.
But the coming together of Mankad and Jani coincided with the dispersion of clouds, literally and figuratively. With the sun having eaten into the early moisture, there was only seam-aided movement to contend with.
Prior to this alliance, batsmen were up against movement in the air and off the pitch, conditions ideal for Krishna and Ronit More to exploit.
While More couldn’t, Krishna did in shaping the ball on demand to scalp the wickets of Himalay Barad, Sheldon Jackson and Arprit Vasavada in a first spell which read: 7-3-14-3. Koushik, with his throwback action, wasn’t quick but his nippy in-swingers and the odd out-swinger helped him to first-spell figures of 7-3-10-3.
Such was the success of the pace duo that spin only saw light in the 21st over. Having dodged pace for some time, Mankad and Jani saw the arrival of K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal as an opening. The partnership grew in significance and confidence with every boundary. After all, Saurashtra’s first boundary had come in the 15th over and the second was struck in Gowtham’s opening over.
The pair took the attack to the opposition, adding 151 runs from 153 balls before Gowtham and Shreyas returned the favour by dismissing Jani and Mankad respectively. Krishna then did exactly what he was held back for, picking up the last two wickets with unplayable yorkers to finish with his second List-A fifer.
After Rahul’s complacency and Nair’s lapse in concentration cost Karnataka a couple of wickets, Padikkal and Pandey shrugged off Saurashtra’s toothless attack with a certain nonchalance. While Pandey (67 not out) slapped his way to his fifth half-century in seven games, which includes a 142 not out, Padikkal caressed his flicks and pulls en route to his first List-A century.