Ranji Trophy: Karn puts Railways ahead with a commanding century

Railways skipper Karn Sharma, mainly a leg-spinner who can bat, surprised Mumbai by notching up his second Ranji hundred in 12 years.

Railways captain Karn Sharma plays a shot en route his hundred against Mumbai at the Wankhede stadium on Thursday.   -  Vivek Bendre


Summoned to the middle with his team on the brink of collapse at 43 for five in the Ranji Trophy league match against Mumbai on Wednesday, Railways skipper Karn Sharma looked at the immediate task of joining forces with specialist batsman Arindam Ghosh and plan a rescue act.

All along his career — across formats — Karn has been a brave customer with the ball, tweaking leg spinners in his inimitable style. In these circumstances, the host seemed a tad unprepared to bowl to a No.7 batsman of the rival side.

Karn faced the dire situation with a show of pluck and skill, and went on to notch his second Ranji ton (112 not out, 146 balls, 15x4, 4x6) in twelve years on Thursday.

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As a 20-year-old rookie making his debut in the premier championship for the Railways against Jammu and Kashmir, he had made a memorable 120 in almost eight hours.

After the solar eclipse break had delayed the start by two hours, he showed the way with the bat initially with a stoical defense and after the departure of Ghosh, with a flaying bat that sent the ball racing to the fence fifteen times and over the line four times in the course of a near-perfect batting display.

Sensing an opportunity to turn the tables on the champion team after dismissing it for a paltry 114 in the first innings, Karn allowed his overnight partner Ghosh to resist the Mumbai seamers with a solid full face of the bat defence and occasionally take the liberty to hit out. Not finding any help from the pitch, seamers Shardul Thakur and Deepak Shetty toiled, but they erred in length and were promptly punished. Introduced in the post lunch session, the fourth seamer in the Mumbai ranks, Akash Parkar found a way to breach the defence of Ghosh (72 off 130 balls,12x4s).

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After the sixth-wicket pair had added a valuable 116 runs in two-and-a-half hours and six minutes, Karn and Avinash Yadav lashed out to add 85 off 78 balls for the seventh wicket. Their blitzkrieg took the score from 159 for 6 to 244 before Yadav became part time off-spinner Siddhesh Lad’s only victim.

Karn took his time to complete his century, after which medium pacer Tushar Deshpande swung into action to take three wickets in seven balls to bring an abrupt end to the Railways innings that had built a sizeable lead of 152 runs.

Mumbai openers Prithvi Shaw and Jay Bista hit a flurry of shots, but from from 35 for no loss, the home team declined to 45 for three with the Railways seamers causing immense torment. At stumps, Mumbai was 64 for three with Ajinkya Rahane batting on three off 45 balls and Suryakumar Yadav on 15 off 38 balls.

Brief scores: Mumbai 114 & 64/3 (P Shaw 23; H Sangwan 2/11) trail Railways 266 all out (K Sharma 112*, A Ghosh 72; T Deshpande 4/44)
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