Karnataka's Ranji Trophy opener versus defending champion Vidarbha may have ended in a draw, the most plausible result that appeared at the start of the last day's play.
But the proceedings at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium on Thursday were far from dull as Karnataka survived a scare before earning three points for the first innings lead.
Vidarbha, after starting the day at 72 for two, was bowled out for 228 on the cusp of tea, thus leaving Karnataka to chase down 158 runs in minimum 31 overs.
The southern giant started off in quest of a win but once free-scorers B.R. Sharath – promoted at the top only to hole out to mid-off while attempting to clear the infield off his first ball – and Karun Nair – stumped down the leg – were dismissed in the fifth over, Karnataka struggled to hang on to a draw.
Wasim Jaffer missed a straight one by left-arm spinner J. Suchith half an hour into the morning session to keep Karnataka alive.
For the next couple of hours, every time Vidarbha looked like getting to safety, Karnataka kept bouncing back with a wicket. The key moment turned out to be a dodgy lbw decision by umpire Rajeev Godara against Ganesh Satish.
Milking the Karnataka bowling at will and showing his class like he did with a flick through on-side off Suchith just after lunch, Ganesh was cruising towards a maiden hundred against his home team.
With a flashy Apoorv Wankhade for company at the other end, the duo had put on 64-run partnership but Ganesh's dismissal turned the tide against Karnataka's favour and Suchith, who picked a fifer, and M. Prasidh Krishna wrapped the tail to give Karnataka a sniff.
It didn't come as a surprise to see Sharath partnering R. Samarth in quest of quick runs. But his mistimed drive off the first ball meant Nair had to take charge at No. 3.
With the pitch starting to behave awkwardly, Nair appeared to take his time but his attempt to glance one resulted in the ball clipping the pad and the batsman took off for a single only to realise substitute wicket-keeper Siddhesh Wath – donning the gloves with Akshay Wadkar down with fever – had lunged to his left and collected the ball.
Even before Nair could take a step back into the crease, Wath had whipped the bails off to bring back the nightmares of the last year's semi-final loss.
In the end, the 70 balls that debutant K.V. Siddharth survived before nicking left-arm spinner Aditya Sarvate into the cordon turned out to be crucial for Karnataka to start the season on a smiling note.
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