Ranji Trophy semifinals: Nair ton puts Karnataka on top

Karun Nair’s fine unbeaten 148 put Karnataka in a comfortable position against Vidarbha in its Ranji Trophy semifinal outing here on Monday.

Karun Nair on way to his century at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Monday.   -  Sampath Kumar G. P.

Karun Nair’s fine unbeaten 148 put Karnataka in a comfortable position against Vidarbha in its Ranji Trophy semifinal outing here on Monday.

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Karun hit his third century of the season, and guided Karnataka to a 109-run lead at the end of the second day. Giving him able company was skipper Vinay Kumar (20 batting, 74b), who despite a leg injury, battled hard to stick around. The duo recorded an unbroken, invaluable 69-run ninth-wicket stand.

The Vidarbha attack — with the exception of Rajneesh Gurbani (five for 90) — proved to be ordinary. India pacer Umesh Yadav did not exert himself a great deal, perhaps in an effort to save himself for the upcoming South Africa tour. Siddhesh Neral was inconsistent, while the spinners Aditya Sarwate and Akshay Wakhare did not make much of an impact on a seaming pitch. For the most part, the bowlers failed to keep it in the right areas for sustained periods.

SCOREBOARD

Overnight duo Karun and C.M. Gautam started in aggressive fashion. Karun survived a couple of close calls – a jab-flick just about evaded the fielder at deep square-leg, while an edge flew through the slip cordon. Gautam too did not hesitate to play his shots, but it eventually resulted in his downfall. The wicket-keeper was well set on 73, when he cut a short and wide Umesh delivery to Akshay Wakhare at deep point.

A rueful Gautam trudged back to the pavilion, having missed the chance to bring up his first hundred of the season.

AS IT HAPPENED

Fast bowler Gurbani then accounted for Stuart Binny, Shreyas Gopal and K. Gowtham in quick succession. All three batters nicked full, swinging balls, giving Gurbani his third first-class five-wicket haul.

With Karun approaching a century, it was important for A. Mithun to play it safe and give him company. Mithun did just that, blocking out deliveries with a dead bat. But barely a couple of minutes after Karun reached his milestone, Mithun tried to slog off-spinner Wakhare and lost his stump.

Vinay, the poster boy for commitment, hobbled to the middle. If Vidarbha thought that he would throw his wicket away, they were sorely mistaken. The captain showed grit to survive nearly 25 overs. Even though it was Karun who hogged the limelight, Vinay must get his share of praise for steering Karnataka to safe waters.