A gutsy unbeaten 89 by middle-order batsman Ankit Bawne and a half-century by opener Chirag Khurana (in pic) helped Maharashtra reach a respectable 272 for five at stumps on the first day of their Ranji Trophy final against Karnataka in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
Opting to bat, Maharashtra lost in-form opener Harshad Khadiwale (15) early but Khurana (64) played the role of sheet anchor to perfection for one-and-half sessions as they were able to conjure three 50-plus partnerships, which helped them put up a decent total on a slow Uppal track.
Bawne's undefeated knock of 89 was comprised of 10 boundaries and he faced 172 deliveries in the process. Opener Khurana also hit eight fours in his 145-ball knock. India U-19 captain Vijay Zol (5), who was specially permitted by the BCCI to play the final didn't last long.
Kedar Jadhav (37, 6x4) looked fluent during his short stay at the crease but was the victim of a poor decision by umpire Anil Chaudhary. For Karnataka, medium pacer Abhimanyu Mithun was the most successful bowler taking two for 44 in 19 overs.
Skipper R Vinay Kumar (1/56 in 23 overs), Sreenath Aravind (1/62) and Karun Nair (1/21) were the other successful bowlers. In fact, Karnataka started off on a positive note as Vinay got one to shape in after pitching, catching Khadiwale plumb in-front. Zol never looked comfortable during his 28-ball stay at the wicket. Aravind, who came in as first change, got one to move away from the left-hander as he offered an easy catch to wicketkeeper CM Gautam.
While Khurana primarily hit boundaries on the on-side, Jadhav scored all round the wicket. In an over from Vinay, Jadhav hit the Karnataka captain for three successive boundaries. First was a fierce square cut, followed by a forward defensive jab and the last one through the mid-wicket region. In their third wicket partnership of 48 runs, Jadhav scored 37 before he was adjudged caught behind trying to flick a Mithun delivery.
The batsman was clearly unhappy and the television replays showed that the ball brushed the pad-strap before being taken by keeper Gautam. Coming in at No 5, Bawne was rock-solid as he added 54 runs for the fourth wicket with Khurana.
Bawne was watchful to begin with and his first boundary came off the 24th ball that he faced, hitting Mithun straight down the ground and his second boundary came when he clipped Vinay through mid-wicket. Khurana on the otherhand, punished Aravind who was bowling his trademark flattish left-arm spinners in between his left-arm swing bowling. The right hander reached his fifth first-class half-century off 126 balls.
Offie Nair came from round the wicket and pitched one in the off-middle line that saw Khurana going for the sweep shot. He missed the line completely and was adjudged plumb in-front.
Once skipper Rohit Motwani (17) came in at the wicket, Bawne took charge. The 21-year-old, who was removed from India U-19 captaincy and the team before the 2012 World Cup after being found over-age, looked composed during is stay at the crease. Bawne never looked uncomfortable against seamers while he did punish the loose deliveries bowled by spinners.
He showed positive intent even after Khurana's dismissal as Nair was hit for two boundaries -- a paddle shot followed by one through mid-wicket by rocking back. He also hit leggie Shreyash Gopal through the covers. His 15th first-class half century was brought up when he came down the track to grill part-time leg-spinner Amit Verma through the extra cover region. His 50 came off 102 balls with six boundaries.
While Motwani played the second fiddle, the duo added 71 runs for the fifth wicket to take Maharashtra past the 200-run mark. Motwani was finally removed by Mithun who induced an edge and that was taken by Gautam behind the stumps.
In the next 17.5 overs, Maharashtra added another 57 runs for the unbroken sixth wicket stand with Bawne getting good support from last match's centurion Sangram Atitkar (29), who hit five boundaries in the process.