A certain Murphy's Law took a special liking to the Kerala side in Wayanad on day two, and everything that could go wrong went wrong as the host side suffered an inexplicable collapse from 59/1 to 91 all out to cede the semifinal to Vidarbha by an innings and 11 runs at the Krishnagiri stadium on Friday.
There was, however, an unusual self-assurance, albeit briefly, about Kerala's opening pair in the morning, unusual by the measures of the top order's meek surrender in the first innings. The think-tank opted for two different openers on this occasion, and the move seemed to have paid off initially.
Jalaj Saxena and K.B. Arun Karthick showed the intent right from the outset to take on the new-ball duo of Rajneesh Gurbani and Umesh Yadav.
Karthick made a statement in the first over of Kerala's second innings, when he struck Gurbani to fine-leg for four before targeting the straight boundary with a glorious six.
The duo added 28 for the first wicket before Yadav had Saxena caught behind. The dismissal didn't affect Karthick's tempo, though, as he continued his attacking display.
But just when it looked like Kerala was finding its mojo, Karthick was trapped in front by Yash Thakur. The dismissal pressed the panic button in the Kerala camp as the batsmen came in and returned as if they were in a hurry.
Mohammed Azharuddeen and Sachin Baby both were out to brilliant pieces of fielding by 18-year-old Atharwa Taide.
Taide first cut short Azharuddeen's stay with a brilliant diving take at square leg before catching the Kerala skipper short of his crease with a direct hit from the same position.
There weren't too many demons in the pitch with most of Kerala's batsmen falling to loose shots as Yadav's match-haul of 12 for 79 sealed Vidarbha's place in the Ranji final for a second consecutive season.
Thampi, Warrier impress
Earlier, Basil Thampi and Sandeep Warrier triggered a spectacular batting collapse which saw Vidarbha lose its last five wickets for a meagre 33 runs.
With the third ball of the day, Basil Thampi struck, claiming Ganesh Satish's wicket with a peach of a delivery. A short of a length ball shaping away outside off, brushed Sathish's edge en route to Mohammed Azharuddeen behind the stumps.
Akshay Wadkar fell off the next delivery, gifting a catch to substitute fielder Akshay Chandran in the slips. Mohit Kale was lucky to survive the hat-trick ball but was gone soon after, caught behind off Warrier.
If not for Yadav, Vidarbha would have been all out for under 200. The 31-year-old pace spearhead pipped Vidarbha's lead past the 100-run mark with an entertaining 8-ball 17 which included two mighty sixes off Thampi.
Meanwhile, Warrier finished with figures of five for 57, taking his overall season tally to 44.
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