Contrasting centuries by opener D. Nischal (113 off 339b, 484m, 10x4) and debutant wicket-keeper H.R. Sharath (103 off 161b, 216m, 20x4) and the duo's 160-run partnership for the sixth wicket kicked off Karnataka's Ranji Trophy campaign by ensuring at least three points versus defending champion Vidarbha.
On the penultimate day at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium, Nischal and Sharath helped Karnataka overtake Vidarbha's first innings total of 307 and captain R. Vinay Kumar, batting stiff neck, ensured a healthy 71-run lead for the visiting team.
Two lucky dismissals – a rough call by umpire Rajeev Godara to uphold a caught-behind appeal against Sanjay Ramaswamy and captain Faiz Fazal's run out – in the last session meant Vidarbha still has to work hard to avoid an outright defeat.
Veteran Wasim Jaffer and seasoned pro Ganesh Satish may have helped Vidarbha wipe off the deficit but with the team leading by a solitary run, the duo will have to dig out in the morning to take the team to safety.
Wednesday, however, belonged to the young duo with different styles of batting. While Nischal continued his dogged defence to frustrate the bowlers, Sharath continued his boundary spree.
The keeper drove with aplomb, cut fiercely and pulled with panache to leave a sparse home team supporters spellbound.
With Karnataka closing in on the 99-run overnight deficit, Vidarbha opted for the new ball the moment it was available five overs into the day's play.
But Sharath took the zip off it, caressing left-arm spinner Aditya Sarvate in the second over. As a result, an over after Nischal trudged to his second first-class hundred, Sharath flicked Sarvate through mid-wicket and a sweetly-timed sweep off successive balls to not only give Karnataka the vital lead but also raise bat for a deserving hundred in his maiden outing.
Two balls later, Sharath missed one from Sarvate and the bowler finally got his reward. Soon after lunch, Nischal nicked Sarvate to Akshay Wadkar and the keeper who had given him a reprieve on on 90 earlier in the morning caught it cleanly to end a marathon innings.
Sarvate then earned his seventh five-for with the last wicket in the Karnataka innings but with the team having conceded the lead, the left-arm spinner wasn't in a celebratory mood.
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