Saurashtra entered its fifth Ranji Trophy final – third in four editions – with a nervy four-wicket victory over Karnataka at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Sunday. Saurashtra will meet Bengal in a repeat of the 2019-20 final that the former won.
For a fleeting hour, Karnataka threatened to flip the script and make its first Ranji final since the 2014-15 season. After setting a paltry 115-run target, it reduced the visitors to 42 for five, with the seasoned Sheldon Jackson back in the pavilion too.
Speedster V. Koushik removed openers Harvik Desai and Snell Patel during a fine first spell (8-1-20-2) before offie K. Gowtham set off a commotion by dismissing three batters in 11 balls.
The 34-year-old exploited the rough outside the right-hander’s off-stump, bowling a stifling line from over the wicket and allowing the pitch to do the rest. Jackson, Vishvarajsinh Jadeja and Chirag Jani were all trapped leg-before by deliveries that kept low.
But Saurashtra showed it had many aces up its sleeve by promoting southpaw Chetan Sakariya to go out and banish the seeping pessimism. This he did by planting his foot across and smashing Gowtham for two sixes over deep mid-wicket and reserved the same treatment for leggie Shreyas Gopal a little later.
It hurt that Gowtham (15-3-38-3) had no support. Skipper Arpit Vasavada (47 n.o., 51b, 7x4) hit V. Vyshak for three pressure-relieving fours and then collected two boundaries off Shreyas.
With 15 runs needed, R. Samarth dropped Sakariya at short-leg. Manish Pandey’s horror show continued as he fluffed an easy chance off Vasavada at short-cover. While all of this may make it seem like Karnataka was mighty close, when the dust settles, it will be evident that the match was lost in the first innings.
In the morning, the young Nikin Jose tried his best to help Karnataka set a challenging target by scoring his maiden First Class century (109, 161b, 9x4). Though he was reprieved thrice and was seemingly helped by a dodgy run-out call by the third umpire, he showed enough grit and determination.
But even his best efforts couldn’t prevent Karnataka from losing a fourth Ranji semifinal in five editions.
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