By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Hyderabad: Feb 2, 2014
Both teams made it into the final of the Ranji Trophy 2013-14 by virtue of remarkable team-work, with many players raising the bar this season. However, Karnataka outclassed Maharashtra by virtue of one day that helped them surge ahead in the contest. It is is undoubtedly a great victory for Karnataka, and one mustn’t forget the remarkable effort put in by Maharashtra throughout the season.
Maharashtra did not play badly, save for one day i.e. Day Two. However, they would blame themselves for their predicament. Firstly, Ankit Bawne’s 89 on Day One had taken them to 272 for five, a reasonable score from where they could have pushed towards a good score. But, once Bawne was dismissed off the first ball he faced on Day Two; Abhimanyu Mithun beating him with a delivery that prodigiously came in, the wheels came off for Maharashtra. They lost their last five wickets for 33 runs on Day Two and were bowled out for only 305.
Karnataka started their innings with that momentum and were further helped by Maharashtra. Although Robin Uthappa retired hurt after a rising delivery hit his elbow early in the innings, Maharashtra failed to hold on to chances. Lokesh Rahul was dropped on zero when he edged Samad Fallah to Harshad Khadiwale at gully, where he could only get his palm to it. Ganesh Satish then edged one to the wicketkeeper Rohit Motwani, but he could only get his glove to it.
To add insult to injury, both batsmen went on to score important tons and helped Karnataka finish Day Two on 230 for no loss. Satish had dominated the off-side, essaying cuts behind point and using the pace of the bowlers. They initially saw it out and then attacked the bowling, the spinners in particular. Rahul had to wait until Day Three to get his ton.
Maharashtra fought back on Day Three courtesy some good bowling and some decent fielding one should say. They finally held on to their chances and Fallah led the way with a three-wicket spell. The scoring rate was slow for Karnataka and they could only manage 244 runs for the loss of seven wickets. Uthappa returned to the field and smashed 72 in quick time and although the middle order’s effort was largely attritional, the top order had set a very good base.
Again, Day Four witnessed a Maharashtra fightback as Kedar Jadhav’s sparkling ton put Karnataka on the backfoot. In fact, Maharashtra had to force the issue and Karnataka made some bizarre decisions. While Jadhav and Ankit Bawne, or even Chirag Khurana later on, they spread the field out and gave easy singles. Maharashtra had made their intent clear early on when they changed their batting order, sending young Vijay Zol to open the batting instead of Chirag Khurana.
Due to Karnataka’s surprising decisions, Jadhav sped away to a ton off 118 balls and was giving Karnataka a few things to worry about. But, R Vinay Kumar persisted with those bizarre changes. His other decisions were even more baffling as he shortened his run-up and bowled with a reduced pace. While the batsmen did pick up a few boundaries early on, the full-tosses did the trick for Karnataka. Khurana failed to full a high full-toss and the ball took the top edge and was taken in the covers. Jadhav spooned a catch straight to the cover fielder.
Maharashtra continued to fight even though they finished Day Four, 62 runs ahead with four wickets in hand. Their tail wagged and took their total lead to 156, leaving Karnataka with 157 to win.
The target wasn’t going to challenge Karnataka, unless Maharashtra took early wickets to set the cat amongst the pigeons. After a measured start, both Uthappa and Rahul smashed the Maharashtra bowling and comfortably charted a course for their team. They were dismissed in the pursuit, but Manish Pandey and Karun Nair completed it.
This is Karnataka’s first triumph since the 1998-99 season. They had made the final in 2010, but lost to Mumbai by a heartbreaking margin of six runs. Eight of those members played this final and it was redemption of sorts for them. There clearly was a lot of bonding and the desire to win. When Maharashtra put Karnataka on the backfoot, the support staff and the reserves were on the boundary cheering their side.
At the same time, Maharashtra should be complemented for their run as no one had expected them to qualify for the semi-finals, let alone the final.
This was a game that saw many milestones being achieved. Jadhav recorded his 1,200 runs this season during his ton in the second innings. Rahul and Harshad Khadiwale also got their 1,000 runs for the season. Vinay Kumar recorded his 300th First-Class wicket.
Maharashtra 305 and 366 (Ankit Bawne 61, Keday Jadhav 112; R Vinay Kumar 4 for 116, Shreyas Gopal 4 for 47) lost to Karnataka 515 and 157for 3 (Robin Uthappa 36, KL Rahul 29, Amit Verma 38; Akshay Darekar 1 for 46) by 7 wickets.
Man of the Match: Lokesh Rahul
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