Vidarbha team pose after beating Karnataka. Photo Courtesy: Umesh Yadav's Twitter handle.
Vidarbha team pose after beating Karnataka. Photo Courtesy: Umesh Yadav’s Twitter handle.

The semi-final of Ranji Trophy 2017-18 between Vidarbha and Karnataka kept everyone hooked to the edges of their seats, at Eden Gardens or in front of live score update windows. The match could have gone either way before the closing hours, when Vidarbha clinched the last two wickets to seal a berth to the Ranji Trophy final for the first time.

Karnataka were 111 for 7 overnight in pursuit of 198. Their hopes lay on skipper Vinay Kumar, who has a knack to rise to challenges. Here, too, he fought boldly, scoring 36 before edging one off Rajneesh Gurbani. It was the youngster s fifth wicket of the innings and tenth of the match, but he was merely warming up.

Karnataka still needed 57 when Abhimanyu Mithun arrived. There were two ways to go about this to hang around and pinch singles or to counterattack. The batsmen decided to share responsibilities: as Mithun swung his bat around vigorously, Shreyas Gopal hung on, and the target got smaller and smaller. The momentum shifted, and it seemed Karnataka would run away with the honours.

But this was a day, or a match, where Gurbani could do no wrong. With 9 runs to get, Mithun tried to loft him over mid-wicket, and the resultant edge went to Aditya Sarwate at deep point. Mithun s 33 had taken him a mere 26, but he had not finished things off.

Sreenath Aravind has a First-Class fifty. Gopal might have hoped him to cling on against Umesh Yadav. Umesh bowled flat out, beating the bat and cramping Aravind for room but not getting a wicket off the first five balls. Then Aravind played the last ball towards fine leg and they ran a single that made little sense.

Aravind, for no rhyme or reason, chased the first ball of the next over. It flew straight to Apoorv Wankhade at gully, and that was that.

Earlier, after bowling out Vidarbha for 185, Karnataka must have felt confident to reach yet another Ranji final. Umesh retaliated with bouncers while Gurbani kept pegging away at the wickets. Karnataka batted well, but could not shut the doors on Vidarbha. In fact, they were 198 for 7 at one stage after Nair and CM Gautam (73) added 139 for the fourth wicket.

But Karun Nair rose to the challenge: he added 27 for the eighth wicket and 71 for the ninth, and fell for 153 only after Karnataka had made it to 301. Umesh (4 for 73) and Gurbani (5 for 94) shared 9 wickets among them.

Faiz Fazal fell for a duck early in the second innings. Wasim Jaffer held the fort for a while with 33, but at 62 for 3 a defeat seemed imminent. Then resistance came from Ganesh Satish (81), Wankhade (49), and Sarwate (55). Sarwate helped Vidarbha reach 313 after they were 245 for 8, adding 38 with Umesh and 30 with Gurbani.

Umesh got the crucial wicket of Mayank Agarwal for the second time in the match. Then Siddhesh Neral struck twice in the same over. Karnataka were 40 for 3.

It was d j vu for Nair and Gautam: they have been there, done that in the first innings. They could not add more than 41 this time, but it helped Karnataka survive the initial tremors. But many more were to come, thanks to Gurbani, who took 4 of his 7 wickets on Day Four.

He took 5 for 45 and 7 for 68 in the match, and was rightly named the Player of the Match.

Brief scores:

Vidarbha 185 and 313 won against Karnataka 301 and 192 (Karun Nair 30, Vinay Kumar 36, Abhimanyu Mithun 33; Umesh Yadav 1 for 65, Rajneesh Gurbani 7 for 68) by 5 runs.