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Ranji Trophy: Nair drives Vidarbha forward

Vidarbha posted a strong 460 all out in 143.1 overs and Karnataka stood at 98/2, still 362 runs in arrears, at the end of Day 2.
Last Updated 24 February 2024, 16:24 IST

Nagpur: After two days of hard grind in the early summer Nagpur sun, a thoroughly professional Vidarbha continued to hold the upper hand against a battling Karnataka in their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal here on Saturday.

Two-time champions Vidarbha, a no nonsense team which mostly believes in doing the basics right rather then trying anything fanciful, repeated the same mantra for a second day in succession at the old VCA Stadium that has now left Karnataka with an awful lot to do if they wish to come out of this attritional battle unscathed.

Firstly, Vidarbha achieved their primary goal of batting at least five sessions, doing so through gumption and discipline. Former Karnataka skipper Karun Nair, who joined Vidarbha at the start of this season after spending a decade with the eight-time champions, led the hosts charge with a fighting 90 as they posted a strong 460 all out in 143.1 overs.

Vidarbha pacers Umesh Yadav, Aditya Thakare, Aditya Sarvate and Yash Thakur then exhibited the same discipline with the ball in the final session, constantly bowling in the channel outside the off-stump and forcing Karnataka to play with concentration almost every ball.

It’s a tough ask for anyone and Karnataka lost two wickets, skipper Mayank Agarwal as early as in the second over and then young Aneesh KV in the 17th. However, former captain R Samarth with a well-made 43 and young SJ Nikin Jose (20) ensured there was no further damage as Karnataka took stumps at 98/2, still 362 runs in arrears.

The start of the day was all about Nair on whether the veteran causes serious damage to his former team. The 32-year-old, who has already scored two centuries for Vidarbha this year, seemed like a man determined to post a big one. He stuck to his strengths, driving the ball gorgeously — straight and through covers — whenever it was pitched up. When it was marginally short, he played with a open face to pick boundaries in the third-man region. And he was brutal against spinners, often stepping down and creaming them for boundaries. Karnataka pacers, on their part, erred too by bowling mostly full to him. 

Growing in confidence as the innings progressed, Nair looked on course for a big knock and literally bat Karnataka out of the contest. Skipper Mayank Agarwal then belatedly realised the weakness of his friend — short ball. Soon after lunch he got Kaverappa (4/99) to pepper him with short balls but Nair held fort resolutely before a peach from the lanky pacer rattled his stumps. Nair couldn’t have done much with that beauty and he walked back disappointed.

Vidarbha though didn’t get deterred by the setback. The tail wagged strongly and Karnataka, who yet again were sloppy on the field by dropping two routine catches, just hoped the damage wouldn’t be too much. Eventually, Vidarbha got to a total they are content and now  the onus is on Karnataka batters to script a turnaround.  

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(Published 24 February 2024, 16:24 IST)

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