Nischal, Sharath save the day for Karnataka

Karnataka opener D Nischal drives one to the fence during his unbeaten 66 on the second day of their Ranji Trophy match against Vidarbha in Nagpur on Tuesday. DH Photo

The young pair of D Nischal and B R Sharath lifted Karnataka out of a wobbly situation against Vidarbha as the Ranji Trophy Elite Group ‘A’ game remained in balance ahead of the penultimate day here at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium.  

Vidarbha, the defending champions, resumed on Tuesday from 245/8. The tail-enders did the hosts a big favour by adding additional 62 runs to the total. Karnataka, who had reduced their opponents to 201 for eight, failed to deliver the knockout blow and leaked 106 runs for the final two wickets.

Shrikant Wagh (57, 83b, 9x4) completed a fine half-century and after his departure, the last wicket pair of Akshay Wakhare (35) and Lalit Yadav (14) played street smart cricket to forge an alliance of 34 runs.

Spinners then put the hosts on top by bagging four quick wickets. At 87/4, rookie Nischal (66 n.o., 209b, 4x4) exhibited great resolve to help Karnataka claw back into the contest. His 62-run stand with Shreyas Gopal (30) allowed some breathing space for the eight-time champions. Karnataka then had a safe final session courtesy an unbroken 59-run partnership between Nischal and debutant B R Sharath (46 n.o., 76b, 9x4). The visitors reached 208/5 at stumps, trailing their opponents by 99 runs.

Panic set in early in the Karnataka camp when Vidarbha’s Aditya Sarvate (2/44) and Akshay Wakhare (2/55) dominated proceedings. R Samarth (1) was gone in the second over, edging it to first slip off the left-arm spinner Sarvate. Debutant K V Siddharth was trapped in front by off-spinner Wakhare and that brought the experienced Karun Nair (15) in the middle.

Nair began confidently, slamming two fours in the very first over he batted. He swept Wakhare to the fence and reverse-swept him again to the boundary.

The right-hander slammed a fine cover drive off left-arm pacer Wagh but Nair couldn’t carry on. He missed a straighter one from Sarvate and was out leg before wicket. Stuart Binny (20) didn’t last long and Karnataka desperately needed some stability.

Nischal, a batsman with a strong defensive technique, was the ideal customer for Karnataka. The visitors needed someone to occupy the crease and see off the tense period. The right-hander, in his 298-minute stay, didn’t try anything outside his normal repertoire and batted with immense focus. The 24-year-old played an innings of fine determination as he mostly ran hard between the wickets for his runs interspersed with occasional drive.

Shreyas would have loved to build on his start but he was dismissed off a brilliant ball from Darshan Nalkande. The medium pacer surprised Shreyas with a yorker length delivery that took an edge to first slip. The post tea session, however, belonged to B R Sharath who essayed an exciting knock.

The right-hander, dropped on four by wicketkeeper Akshay Wadkar off Nalkande, was in attack mode. He pounced on the loose balls and his fearless approach forced the bowlers to err. The youngster though rightly put value to his wicket in the final few overs of the day.

“It would have been nice to see them (Karnataka) seven wickets down. Nischal is very strong in his defence and Sharath negated the spinners well. But the new ball is due in eight overs and our seamers will run through them in the first session tomorrow,” said Sarvate.

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Nischal, Sharath save the day for Karnataka

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