Ranji Trophy: Saurashtra beats Karnataka, avoids relegation

It was the first loss for Karnataka and saw the erstwhile Group B topper slide down to second spot even as Saurashtra jumped to seventh.

Snell Patel (left) and Prerak Mankad of Saurashtra.   -  Special Arrangement

A dramatic collapse before a cautious recovery on the final day saw Saurashtra upstage Karnataka for its first win of the Ranji Trophy this season and avoiding relegation at the Dhruve Pandove Stadium here on Friday. It was also the first loss for Karnataka and saw the erstwhile Group B topper slide down to second spot even as Saurashtra jumped to seventh.

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One session of panic and recklessness almost saw Karnataka, defending just 58 runs on a turning track in the fourth session, snatch victory before Prerak Mankad (14) and Arpit Vasavada (8) restored sanity, taking Saurashtra past the post in 18.4 overs for a four-wicket win. Resuming on its overnight score of 168 for five, Karnataka managed to add another 48 runs before being dismissed a hour and half after lunch. But the small target appeared to be too big in the face of Gowtham K. and Abrar Kazi's turners.

Snell Patel and Kishan Parmar started the chase well, scoring quick, safe 14 runs in the first four overs before the hara-kiri began. Parmar had stuck Vinay Kumar for two consecutive fours pulled to deep square leg before Kazi rapped him on his pads in the 4th over as Parmar stretched forward to defend but couldn't get the bat down in time.

Thereafter it was a Gautham show even as Kazi kept the runs choked from the other end to add pressure. Snell tried to sweep, managed only a top edge and the ball went high, landing in wicketkeeper CM Gautam's gloves. Two balls later Sheldon Jackson was done in by an over-pitched ball that turned and struck the off stump. The score was 20 for three and though only 38 runs were needed in more than a session, Saurashtra was in too much of a hurry.

Captain Jaydev Shah struck Kazi for a confident six over extra cover and was cleaned up by Gowtham going for a repeat. Next ball Samarth Vyas, who took a nasty blow fielding at short fine leg earlier, walked back trying to cut. Nine overs and five wickets gone, Saurashtra still needed 26 runs. It was left to the sensible, patient mix of defence and strokeplay from Vasavada and Mankad to drag the team back into the game. Saurashtra needed 17 runs at tea and a huge straight six from Mankad off Shreyas Gopal in the latter's only over of the innings immediately on resumption eased the pressure before Vasavada got the winning runs with a four to fine leg.

Earlier, with the match starting more than an hour late due to dense fog and a dewy, slippery outfield, Karnataka strove to save the match with some dour defensive play. Top-scorer Kaunain Abbas was disappointed to be dismissed for 74, bowled by Jay Chauhan trying to rock back and cut. Mayank Agarwal was next but Vinay Kumar, first with Gopal and then with Kazi, kept offering the full face of a defensive bat without bothering with the score. At one point, Karnataka had added just two runs in nine overs before Kazi finally fell, dragging the ball to the stumps for four, and Vinay Kumar followed five overs later.