Vidarbha 185 and 195 for 4 (Satish 71*, Wankhade 49, Aravind 2-41) lead Karnataka 301 (Nair 153, Gautam 73, Gurbani 5-94, Umesh 4-73) by 79 runs
For the third time in three days, Vidarbha showed flashes of fight, but Karnataka maintained their dominance over the Ranji Trophy semi-final at Eden Gardens. Vidarbha wrapped up Karnataka’s first innings 35 minutes after play began an hour late due to bad light. Having conceded a lead of 116, Vidarbha lost three wickets before they could wipe out the deficit. When play ended at 3.33pm local time – the earliest it has yet in this game – they led by 79 runs with six wickets in hand and looked on track to set Karnataka a reasonable target.
In any case, it was an innings of improvements for Vidarbha. Ganesh Satish was at the forefront, leading their fight with a stroke-filled, unbeaten 71. It took Vidarbha 10 runs past their first-innings score, for the loss of four wickets. Satish walked out with Vidarbha potentially staring at a heavy defeat. By the end, they were still facing an uphill battle, but had given themselves just a glimmer at salvaging the game. At stumps, they were 195 for 4, having progressed at 4.15 runs an over.
It took Karnataka’s pacers less than 10 overs to snuff out the Vidarbha openers. Faiz Fazal fell as much to Vinay Kumar’s tactical brilliance as to his second botch up with the bat in the match. Technically correct for the most part, Fazal tried to flick Vinay across the line and was hit in front of the stumps. That he attempted the stroke was possibly only because Vinay had left midwicket open and placed mid-on slightly straighter than usual to invite the shot. The only thing that came in the way of making it a perfect dismissal was a possible inside edge, the likelihood of that having happened magnified by Fazal’s reaction, as he stayed put in his crease and stared emptily into the ground before trudging off.
Having cramped up on the opening day, and perhaps not wanting to strain himself too much ahead of the final, Vinay bowled with a considerably shorter run-up. He used his bowlers in short bursts to keep them fresh and retain intensity. Vinay, Abhimanyu Mithun and Stuart Binny’s first spells each lasted just three overs.
Karnataka’s bowlers continued to effect subtle movement. Binny produced an outside edge from Sanjay Ramaswamy’s bat with a length ball that kicked up and ripped away off the seam.
Wasim Jaffer, meanwhile, slashed a wild square cut and followed it up with a more controlled pull off Binny for four. He continued to counter Karnataka’s pacers with a flurry of boundaries and took Vidarbha to 58 for 2 at lunch.
He fell in the second over after the break, trapped lbw by Aravind. Though the ball had come in with the arm, the width it had been delivered from made umpire Paschim Pathak’s call seem debatable. Just a few overs prior to that, Pathak had withheld Aravind’s appeal against the same batsman with a lot straighter one that had held its line.
With the ball doing all sorts of things off the surface, Karnataka’s bowlers optimised the conditions on offer by bowling smart angles and keeping the batsmen guessing. Vidarbha continued to show indiscreet tendencies, every now and then flashing outside the off stump and playing across the line.
What they did well, however, was to capitalise when the sun came out and made batting easier. Satish led that change in the company of Apoorv Wankhade. Together, they stroked the ball well on both sides of the wicket and steadied Vidarbha as the afternoon wore on. They did take their chances early in their stand – and it made for ugly viewing when they did – but Vidarbha needed to get a move on.
The deficit was erased shortly after the fifty of their partnership came up. Soon after taking the lead, Wankhade drove Binny uppishly just past the cover fielder, and then launched him with authority over mid-off to end the over. After a change in ball at the end of that over, he cracked a square cut between point and gully off Vinay.
All this was to the great frustration of the Karnataka captain, who had a go at the batsman. With Satish holding firm at his end, they made sure Vidarbha didn’t slip into a shell, which was crucial on a tough surface.
Though he struck at over 100, Wankhade largely played very neat shots. That included a pull in front of square off Aravind that took him to 49. Two balls after that, perhaps done in by a lack of pace, he drove half-heartedly into the hands of cover.
Satish stretched the lead at the other end, raising his fifty with a square-driven four off Vinay. For all their good work, Karnataka’s bowlers, unlike in the first innings, offered a sprinkling of boundary balls that kept Vidarbha ticking.
In the morning, thick layers of mist engulfed the ground. It was only three-quarters of an hour after the scheduled start that the sun began peeking out for the first time.
As on the second evening, Vidarbha began by bowling outside Vinay’s off-stump, but the Karnataka captain continued to leave them alone. When they finally had him, it was to a full and straight delivery from Umesh Yadav that arrived at scorching pace. By the time Vinay’s bat had come down for a flick, he had been rapped on the pad and adjudged lbw.
Nair brought up his 150 with a smooth clip through midwicket for a brace off Gurbani. But Umesh’s pace accounted for him too: when he was trying to arch back to guide a shortish delivery, he edged to the keeper.