Ranji Trophy: Manish Pandey, Karun Nair steer Karnataka into semis

Middle-order batsmen Manish Pandey and Karun Nair add 129 for the fifth to take their team past Team Rajasthan on Day Four.

Manish Pandey (right) and Karun Nair adopted an attacking approach to get to their target of 184.   -  Sudhakara Jain

Attack is the best form of defence. This was the maxim that Manish Pandey followed, and it worked wonders. With 139 runs needed on the fourth day to seal a Ranji Trophy semifinal berth, Pandey blasted a 75-ball 87, with 14 fours and two sixes, to carry Karnataka past Team Rajasthan.

His partner, Karun Nair (61 not out, 129b, 6x4), was happy to play second fiddle. The duo’s unbroken 129-run fifth-wicket partnership stunned Rajasthan into submission in the first session.

Positive approach

Karnataka learnt from a mistake committed in the group stage. Faced with a similarly small target of 179 against Saurashtra, Karnataka adopted a defensive approach and paid the price. This time, Manish was keen to stay positive, which put Rajasthan under the pump.

DAY THREE REPORT

He started with three streaky boundaries — a slash over point, an edge to third man, and a French cut. A crisp straight drive off pacer Aniket Choudhary got him going. He was soon in full flow, smashing an overpitched delivery from leg-spinner Rahul Chahar over long-off for a six.

Costly miss

Manish finished the match in style, hitting Rahul for two fours and a six in the midwicket region. The 29-year-old received an unexpected gift, when on 38, Deepak Chahar dropped an absolute sitter at mid-on. The bowler, Deepak’s cousin Rahul, was distraught, as was the rest of the team. Karnataka was at 119 for four at that stage; Rajasthan’s best and only chance of mounting a comeback had slipped away.

In full flow: Manish Pandey scored a bellicose, unbeaten 75-ball 87. Photo: Sudhakara Jain

 

Karun overcame a minor slump in form with an innings of substance. He picked the length well, and did not hesitate to drive anything full. Playing away from the body led to a couple of nicks, but overall, Karun proved that the team can count on him in pressure situations.

Lack of urgency

Rajasthan, meanwhile, lacked a sense of urgency and fire. The bowlers were inconsistent with their lengths, and the field setting was defensive. Instead of packing the slip cordon, skipper Mahipal Lomror opted to keep only first and third slip. Both Karun and Manish got a few nicks through the vacant area, early in their knocks.

Rajasthan’s on-field behaviour also raised eyebrows. The players resorted to theatrics when a caught-behind appeal was turned down. Rahul threw his shades to the ground, wicketkeeper Chetan threw the ball to the ground, and their team-mates aimed verbal barbs at the cornered umpire. Replays showed that Karun’s bat was nowhere near the ball.

In the semifinal, which begins on January 24, Karnataka will take on the winner of the Saurashtra-Uttar Pradesh match. The venue is yet to be announced.

Brief Scores

Rajasthan 224 and 222 lost to Karnataka 263 and 185 for 4 (Manish Pandey 87 n.o., Karun Nair 61 n.o.) by six wickets.