Gowtham is hero as Karnataka pull off thrilling win

Gowtham is hero as Karnataka pull off thrilling win

Off-spinner K Gowtham claimed 8/60 in the second innings against Tamil Nadu to set-up Karnataka's thrilling win on Thursday. DH File Photo

In close encounters, there is no bigger weapon for a team than collective belief. A champion side is a cut above the rest for their ability to fight till the last moment. So far in this domestic season, there has been no team better than Karnataka in displaying nerves of steel in crunch moments.    

A little over a week before the Ranji Trophy began, a Manish Pandey-led Karnataka had annexed their second straight Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy. The title clash in Surat bore a strong similarity with the Group B game here at the NPR College ground. Going hard at each other were the traditional rivals Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The game’s fate was set to be decided in the final over of the contest. And the man bowling the all-important six balls was K Gowtham.

If there was one difference in challenge for the off-spinner was that in the Mushtaq Ali summit clash, his task was to contain runs (13) while here, if Karnataka had to walk away with six points, Gowtham had to take one last wicket. The final result? The Karnataka camp was a bundle of joy while Tamil Nadu were left to digest the terrible feeling of so-near-yet-so-far once again.   

Those watching and following proceedings of the match would have been humming the clichéd tune of 'all three results are possible' in their head. Resuming from a precarious 89/5, ahead by 118 runs, Karnataka lower order added 62 vital runs to set Tamil Nadu a tricky target of 181 in 62 overs. Devdutt Padikkal’s steely 39 was as important as the cameos from BR Sharath (28), David Mathias (22) and Gowtham (22).   

When Karnataka stepped on to the field, the inevitable focus was on Gowtham. The 31-year-old is someone who has been in such tense situations many times at various levels. If his 6/110 ensured Karnataka a first-innings lead, Gowtham went a step better, bagging a sensational 8/60 to single-handedly power Karnataka to a 26-run win. 

A match that produced many thrilling phases deserved a winner. A Tamil Nadu victory turned improbable when they crumbled to 114/8. The tail wagged in the face of a relentless Gowtham. He castled number 10 M Siddharth with two overs to go. With a bunch of close-in fielders around the last man K Vignesh, Gowtham geared up to bowl the final over as pin-drop silence engulfed both the dressing rooms.

In the third ball, Gowtham trapped Vignesh plumb in front with a good-length delivery and set off on a celebratory run. The eight-time champions couldn’t have asked for a better start as the game tested their temperament to the hilt.

Even as captain Vijay Shankar denied there is a mental block for Tamil Nadu when they face Karnataka, it was evident that this team has often choked against its biggest rival. You will back a team to win after getting off to a blazing start of 46/0 in seven overs. What Tamil Nadu next managed was just 38 runs in the next 24 overs, losing four wickets in the process.

Gowtham, who bowled impeccable 30.3 overs at a stretch, picked up big wickets at crucial phases of the game. He forced Abhinav Mukund (42) to edge one to slip while going for an expansive drive. He bowled to a plan and had Vijay Shankar caught at short fine leg when the batsman tried a slog sweep. Dinesh Karthik fell victim to Gowtham’s accuracy as he played the wrong line and saw his stumps rattled.

In the end, in a match for the ages, Gowtham's heroics helped Karnataka prevail.

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