Former champions Karnataka rode on a fine century by their vice-captain Karun Nair to put his team in a strong position on the second day of their Ranji Trophy semifinal against Vidarbha at the Eden Gardens, here today. Nair's unbeaten 148 ensured a healthy 109-run first innings lead for Karnataka over Vidarbha. Resuming at the overnight score of 36 for three, Nair hit 20 fours and one six in his stellar knock and batted all the three sessions. Nair thwarted an onslaught from young Vidarbha pacer Rajneesh Gurbani, who returned with his third successive five-wicket haul (5/90).
The second Indian to score a triple century in Tests, Nair, found a fine ally in skipper R Vinay Kumar (20 not out) as the duo batted sensibly amid the ruins in an unbroken 69- run ninth wicket partnership that took Karnataka's lead past 100. At the close, Karnataka were 294 for eight when bad light stopped play at 93 overs with three more days left in play.
Bowling with a short run-up, South Africa-bound India pacer Umesh Yadav (2/71) gave Vidarbha their first breakthrough at the stroke of lunch ending Nair's overnight 139-run partnership with CM Gautam (73). The Karnataka wicketkeeper slashed a delivery straight to deep point after a fine knock that was laced with eight boundaries.
Karnataka looked to go the Vidarbha way in the post-lunch session as Gurbani hit the deck hard and swung the ball to take three wickets for 24 runs in his superb third spell of 9-0-49-3. Stuart Binny (4), Shreyas Gopal (7) and K Gowtham (1) were all dismissed cheaply as Karnataka were tottering at 198 for seven at one stage in reply to Vidarbha's 185.
Binny lasted 12 balls and edged a beautiful outswinger behind the stumps, while Gowtham was deceived brilliantly by a slower one as the batsman mistimed a drive straight to gully. But Nair stood tall to brighten eight-time champion Karnataka's bid for their third final in five seasons. Nair remained cool amid Gurbani's incisive spell. He
counter-attacked the pacer with an effortless pull for a six over square leg boundary for the only six of the match.
In the 90s, Nair took time and chose to deal with singles. He brought up his third century of the season, and 13th overall, off 181 balls. Nair's only minor blip in an otherwise chanceless knock was when he got an edge off Siddhesh Neral but the ball flew past Wasim Jaffer at second slip as he raced to 96 with a boundary. Under fading lights, Nair chose to play it safe along with Vinay Kumar as the duo saw through the day.
Gautam Gambhir, Kunal Chandela put Delhi in control
Gautam Gambhir was patience personified while unheralded Kunal Chandela showed maturity beyond years as their twin tons took Delhi to a commanding 271 for three against Bengal on the second day of the Ranji Trophy semi-final. With Bengal scoring a below par 286 in their first essay, they are sure to concede first innings lead. The only positive aspect for Bengal was final session where Delhi scored only 51 runs losing three wickets including Gambhir (127 off 216 balls) off Mohammed Shami.
Gambhir was an epitome of calmness during his 42nd first-class hundred in company of Chandela (113 off 192 balls), who is playing only his third first-class match. The manner in which Gambhir-Chandela duo humiliated a Bengal attack comprising Shami (23.2-3-83-1) and Ashok Dinda (18-2-86-1) looked pedestrian. The best part about Gambhir this season has been his attitude. He has remain attached with a goal of guiding Delhi with crucial runs yet remained uninvolved like an isolated island.
Chandela, on the other hand, waited for the pitched up deliveries, playing those flowing cover drives while the ones rising from length were defended. The six off Gani was majestic and so were the most of his 18 fours during the 232-run opening stand with Gambhir. The first 25 overs saw Bengal going for 24 boundaries with B Amit (22-9-47-1) simply not good enough to be a third seamer.
Someone like Shami was also unable to bowl maiden overs. With Bengal playing only three and a half bowlers (Amit is an all-rounder), Shami was made to bowl nearly 24 overs, something the Indian team management won't be amused. "It's only Ranji Trophy. Don't judge him by this performance," said CAB president Sourav Ganguly about Shami.
(With PTI Inputs)