Karnataka completed a historic treble at domestic level by emerging champions in the Vijay Hazare Trophy with a four-wicket win over Railways in yet another low-scoring affair at Eden Gardens on Sunday.
Chasing 158, the Ranji and Irani Cup 2014 champions had a jittery start after they lost five wickets in 26 runs to be 47 for the loss of five wickets in the 12th over but sensible batting by youngsters Karun Nair (53*) and Lokesh Rahul (38) set up the chase with a 66-run partnership.
After Rahul’s fall, 22-year-old Nair, who made the First-Class debut this season, showed the right temperament as his unbeaten half-century, third in List A, saw the team through with seven overs to spare.
Despite the small total to defend, the Railways pacer duo of Anureet Singh and Krishna Kant Upadhyay did not give up their hope as they ripped apart the Karnataka top order bowling in tandem for 14 overs.
R Vinay Kumar promoted him to the crucial No 3, a move that faltered badly with Upadhyay (7-2-27-3) and Anureet (7-1-28-2) blazing all guns.
Having impressed behind the stumps, Lokesh Rahul was solid with his batting technique as well. The 21-year-old revived their chase with Karun Nair giving a fine company.
Rahul also had luck on his side as he survived a close lbw appeal before getting a reprieve on 23. The duo put on the match-turning 66-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
Chanderpal Saini broke the partnership, but Nair stood tall as he along with Kunal Kapoor (24 not out) took Karnataka to an unprecedented hattrick of titles in domestic cricket.
Earlier, No 8 batsman Rongsen Jonathan top-scored for Railways as his gritty 46 from 57 balls (3×4) helped them recover from being 83 for the loss of seven wickets to 157 all out in 47.4 overs after they were asked to bat on the Eden green top.
It was a pathetic display from the Railways top and middle-order batsmen until Jonathan’s positive intent put them past 150.
First, he stitched a crucial 38-run eighth wicket stand from 60 balls with Amit Mishra, while with Anureet he added a brisk 34 from 35 balls to give the much-needed push to their total.
For Karnataka, Abimanyu Mithun returned with 4 for 19 from his 9.4 overs, while part-timer Uthappa and Abar Kazi claimed two wickets apiece.
The damage was done in the first 10 overs only when Railways trudged to 20 runs in the powerplay.
Just when Shivakant Shukla looked set in the middle having consumed 46 balls for his 21 runs, the left-handed opener gave an easy catch to Ganesh Satish from a poor Uthappa delivery.
The part-time bowler got his second wicket in the next over off a gentle outswinger when he dismissed Railways in-form skipper Mahesh Rawat (4) cheaply.
Karnataka were sharp in the field, and they got some variable bounce from the pitch as Railways looked out of sorts.
Bengal lad Arindam Ghosh (33) looked steady in the middle for sometime, but soon frustration crept in with their sluggish run-rate as he stepped out to Kazi only to be stumped.
Karnataka wicket-keeper Lokesh Rahul took a fantastic one-handed catch diving to his left to pile on Railways misery.
It handed Mithun the first wicket as the Karnataka pacer returned with impressive figures of 3-0-16-2 in his second spell en route to his four wicket-haul, the wrecker-in-chief for the Railways.
Railways 157 in 47.4 overs (Rongsen Jonathan 46, Arindam Ghosh 33; Abhimanyu Mithun 4 for 19, Abar Kazi 2 for 27, Robin Uthappa 2 for 19) lost to Karnataka 158 for 6 in 43 overs (Karun Nair 53*, Lokesh Rahul 38; Krishna Kant Upadhyay 3 for 30, Anureet Singh 2 for 41) by four wickets.
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