Uthappa century floors Kerala

Vinay Kumar bags second successive five-wicket haul in crushing 104-run win

Uthappa century floors Kerala

Karnataka batting, which walked on stilts in the first two matches, bloomed fully on a scorching Sunday against Kerala, laying the foundation for an effortless 104-run win in the South Zone one-day tournament for the K S Subbaiah Pillai Trophy.

Robin Uthappa (104, 104b, 11x4, 2x6) and KL Rahul provided the initial spark with a well-paced hundred and fifty, and then Karun Nair added muscle to the total with a blazing 60 off just 35 balls. Those knocks carried Karnataka to 317 for five in 50 overs, and skipper R Vinay Kumar grabbed his second five-wicket haul in as many matches (5-34) as the hosts restricted Kerala to 213 all out. This was also Vinay’s best-ever figure in List A matches.

There was not much doubt over the outcome of the match once the home side posted that massive total, but Rohan Prem delayed the inevitable with an entertaining hundred (103, 100b, 10x4, 1x6).

Karnataka got four points from this match, taking their tally to ten points from three matches. Tamil Nadu, who beat Hyderabad on the day, are leading the table with 12 points.

Karnataka had struggled a bit to find momentum in the previous two matches, and they effected a change at the totem pole position, bringing in Mayank Agarwal to partner Uthappa in place of Rahul, who batted at number three on this day. Agarwal replaced Ganesh Satish in the line-up, while HS Sharath came in for Abhimanyu Mithun.

The hosts also swapped Ronit More for S Arvind, and each of those changes worked well for them.

But the most visible among them was the new opening combination between Uthappa and Agarwal. The two stroke-makers played their natural game on an Alur (1) pitch that offered true bounce and carry, milking 85 runs in 14 overs, the best opening alliance for Karnataka in this tournament thus far.

Agarwal was castled by left-arm spinner Padmanabhan Prashanth for 39, but the arrival of Rahul only boosted Karnataka scoring. Uthappa and Rahul added 99 runs in 109 balls for the second wicket, and as usual the Kodava man was the dominant partner, tearing the bowling apart with an admirable mix of convention and innovation.

Uthappa, who had made 54 and 45 against Andhra and Hyderabad respectively, completed a fine hundred on the day with a reverse sweep off off-spinner Vinoop Manoharan. But he soon fell to the same bowler, offering a tame return catch, and Rahul too departed skying a catch to Manoharan at deep off CP Shahid.

At 206 for three in the 38th over, Karnataka had an excellent chance to post a 300-plus total, and they needed one batsman to play the role of enforcer. Karun did exactly that in the company of a sedate Manish Pandey, hammering 96 runs off a mere 61 balls.

Karun was particularly severe on medium pacer Sandeep Warrier, whom he carted for a sequence of 6, 6, 4. Warrier was also the most expensive Kerala bowler, conceding 75 runs in his eight overs. The search for quick runs eventually ended Karun’s stay, but by then Karnataka had already reached a sphere that Kerala would find hard to reach.

Kerala, however, tried their best to mount a reasonable chase, but the quality in the hosts’ bowling line-up, under the wings of the ever-reliable Vinay, was too high for them to match.

There were two handy partnerships in the Kerala innings -- 54 between Sanju Samson and VA Jagadeesh for the second wicket, and 75 for the fifth wicket between Prem and Robert Fernandes. But Kerala had already ceded too much ground to Karnataka by then.

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