Pune: One can sense that the inevitable is just around the corner as all the rolls of the dice are falling in Karnataka’s favour even on Day Three of their Ranji Trophy Group A match against Maharashtra at the MCA International Stadium here on Friday.
Starting the day on 219, Mayank Agarwal completed his much awaited maiden triple hundred, Karun Nair too scored his second hundred of the season, as Karnataka piled up a mountain of runs, as stiff as the one that sets the backdrop of the stadium.
Maharashtra are potentially staring at an innings defeat when the stumps were drawn after they reached 135/4, still, 248 runs behind the Karnataka’s first innings lead of 383 after the eight-time champions declared their first innings on 628/5 in the post-lunch session.
First inning’s centurian Rahul Tripathi was playing on 33, keeping Rahul Gaikwad a company, who was batting on 61, as Abhimanyu Mithun led the charge for Karnataka with two quick wickets in second innings.
Karnataka in command
On a wicket which is still good to bat on, Maharashtra openers came out to bat with their task cut out. Playing at this level, experience can make a huge difference and Mithun just proved that. Altering his length in the second innings, he gave Karnataka the early breakthrough which they were looking for in the third over.
Swapnil Gugale, yet to open his account, flashed at one delivery by Mithun only to give keeper CM Gautam a simple catch behind the stumps.
Other Maharashtra opener Harshad Khadiwale had started positively, but Mithun produced another peach of a delivery to get rid of the opener. The ball just held it’s line and Khadiwale poked at it to give another routine catch to Gautam, leaving Maharashtra 27/2 in the seventh over.
Gaikwad-Bawne hold on
With little over half an hour to Tea, Ruturaj Gaikwad and skipper Ankeet Bawne occupied the crease and took hosts into the breather with the scoreboard reading 49/2.
In the last session of the day, the duo continued to thwart opposition attack to complete the 50-run partnership. But then medium-pacer Ronit More got the crucial wicket of Bawne.
Bawne was caught on the crease as the slightly fullish delivery which nipped back in and hit the pads, umpire took his time before raising the finger, much to the dislike of Bawne; as the ball looked like it might go down the leg side.
Two overs later, it was Stuart Binny’s turn to have a wicket against his name. A delivery bowled on off-stump just held its line and bounced a little extra, catching Naushad Shaikh little by surprise.
Shaikh, who scored 69 in the first innings, had offered yet another catch to keeper Gautam, leaving Maharashtra in heap of trouble, still 299 runs behind.
Agarwal-Nair pile on
Like on Day 2, Agarwal was slow to get off the blocks as Maharashtra bowlers did a decent job of keeping a check on the runs, unlike the previous day. He reached the 250-run landmark in 427 balls with 27 fours and two sixes.
On the other hand, Nair, who started on 56, kept the scoreboard ticking. He took 27 balls to reach the three-figure mark after reaching 90. But he completed his 100 with a stylish cover driver. Visitors went to lunch with 343 runs ahead, without losing a wicket with Nair on 116 and Agarwal on 280.
The triple and declaration
Nair perished on the second ball after lunch when he tried to reverse sweep Khurana’s delivery, only to give a straight catch to home captain Ankeet Bawne, ending another mammoth 268-run stand.
Khurana then picked up his third wicket when Naushad Shaikh took a superb diving catch at covers to dismiss Krishnappa Gowtham on 11. Shaikh, a part-timer then sent back Pavan Deshpande when Gaikwad caught him at mid-off on just two.
Meanwhile, Agarwal was inching towards the landmark 300 runs, showing a great composure. He glanced a ball by Pradeep Dadhe to the third-man region to bring up his first triple hundred, a third by Karnataka batsmen after KL Rahul and Karun Nair. Soon after he reached the milestone, Karnataka declared their innings on 628/5
When Tripathi and Gaikwad will come out to bat on the last day of the match, they will have to put everything on the line as Maharashtra will have to pull off a Herculean task to salvage a point. But the chances look very bleak, inevitable might just be around the corner.
Maharashtra 1st innings 245
Karnataka 1st innings: Ravikumar Samarth c Motwani b Gugale 129 (219b, 17x4); Mayank Agarwal not out 304 (494b, 28x4, 4x6); Nischal Dega c Bawane b Khurana 16 (47b, 1x4); Karun Nair c Bawane b Khurana 116 (256b, 13x4); K Gowtham c Shaikh b Khurana 11 (14b, 1x6); Pavan Deshpande c Gaikwad b Shaikh 2 (16b)’ CM Gautam not out 1 (23b). Extras: (nb 13, w 15, b 17, lb 4, pen 0) 49
Total: (5 wickets declared; 176 overs) 628
Fall of wickets 1-259, 2-319, 3-589, 4-607, 5-619
Bowling: Samad Fallah 41-10-106-0; Nkiti Dhumal 38-2-127-0; Pradeep Dadhe 24-0-117-0; Chirag Khurana 39-1-147-3; Rahul Tripathi 12-1-32-0; Swapnil Gugale 9-0-32-1; Naushad Shaikh 13-1-46-1
Maharashtra 2nd innings
Swapnil Gugale c Gautam b Mithun 0 (10b); Harshad Khadiwale c Gautam b Mithun 19 (17b, 4x4); Ruturaj Gaikwad not out 61 (117b, 9x4); Ankeet Bawane lbw More 17 (44b, 1x4, 1x6); Naushad Shaikh c Gautam b Binny 3 (4b); Rahul Tripathi not out 33 (31b, 4x4, 1x6). Extras: (nb 1, w 0, b 1, lb 0, pen 0) 2. Total: (4 wickets; 37 overs) 135.
Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-27, 3-81, 4-84.
Bowling: Abhimanyu Mithun 10-1-32-2; Vinay Kumar 7-0-35-0; Ronit More 8-2-13-1; K Gowtham 5-0-29-0; Pavan Deshpande 1-0-9-0; Stuart Binny 6-2-16-1
Maharashtra trail by 248 runs.