Vijay Hazare Trophy: So near, yet so far for Karnataka

Chasing 270 in 42 overs — the match a curtailed affair because of a wet outfield — K.L. Rahul scored 107 (91b, 8x4, 5x6) to bring Karnataka within a whisker but his team lost by 4 runs.

K.L. Rahul was involved in two partnerships — 100 runs for the fourth wicket with Deshpande and 58 runs for the seventh wicket with Vinay.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

It could have been the best-possible parting gift the South Africa-bound K.L. Rahul could have given Karnataka but it wasn't to be as his side fell short by four runs against Punjab in the Vijay Hazare Trophy at Alur on Sunday.

Chasing 270 in 42 overs – the match a curtailed affair because of a wet outfield – the India opener scored 107 marvellous runs (91b, 8x4, 5x6) to bring Karnataka within a whisker. When he was dismissed caught at fine leg off Barinder Sran, it needed another 21 runs from 16 balls with skipper Vinay Kumar (26 n.o., 29b, 1x6) still at the crease.

However Sran, who was otherwise hammered all through the match, bowled two miserly overs (2-0-10-1) at the death to deny Karnataka. For Punjab, U-19 World Cup star Shubman Gill was the stand-out performer, making an unbeaten century (123, 122b, 8x4, 6x6) in a must win game, but almost saw Rahul ruin his day.

Rahul had endured a patchy run of late and would have no doubt liked a few runs before he joined his India teammates for the T20Is against South Africa. That these came after his team had lost three of its inform batsmen – Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair and R. Samarth – with just 61 runs on the board, with just two rookie specialist batsmen in Pavan Deshpande (53, 51b, 4x4, 1x6) and Anirudha Joshi for company, will please him.

The first half of his innings was subdued. Coming in at No.3, he took more than a dozen balls to get off the mark and the half-century consumed 60 balls. But after bringing it up with two consecutive fours off Mayank Markande, he grew expansive.

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The two partnerships — 100 runs for the fourth wicket with Deshpande and 58 runs for the seventh wicket with Vinay – saw some outstanding shots by Rahul. Two of his sixes were fierce square cuts and the other two came through a scoop and an upper cut. The fifth off Manpreet Grewal, a pull, got him to his hundred.

Gill's ton was no less special. But for a run-out chance fluffed by Mayank when he had just crossed 50, it was a chanceless innings. After Vinay dismissed his opening partner Manan Vohra off the first ball of the match, the 18-year-old displayed tremendous poise.

It was only in the 12th over that he moved into double figures, hoisting offie K. Gowtham over the long on boundary, but not for once did he seem anxious. He was particularly severe on Gowtham's spin partner Pravin Dubey – playing in-place of an injured Shreyas Gopal – hammering him for three of his six sixes.

Prasidh Krishna and T. Pradeep too saw themselves carted around the park by Gill but to a lesser extent. Along with useful contributions from Gurkeerat Singh Mann (35 n.o.), Mandeep Singh (64) and Yuvraj Singh (36) he pulled Punjab up to third in the group, behind Karnataka and Railways.