How Karnataka turned around their season will be one of the talking points of the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season, especially if they go on to achieve glory. At one stage, defeat to Odisha threatened to derail their campaign and then when they lost their captain R Vinay Kumar to injury, Karnataka were robbed of their strike bowler. But the team rallied, beating Delhi and hanging on for a thrilling draw against Haryana. They needed victory in their final match and achieved it, and with a bit of help from some other teams reached the quarter-finals.
Karnataka's most consistent performers were Robin Uthappa and Stuart Binny, but the man who left the biggest mark was their wicketkeeper-batsman, CM Gautam, who finished the league stage as the leading run-getter of the season. His century in a match-turning partnership with Ganesh Satish against Tamil Nadu was followed by double-centuries as Karnataka remained afloat. Also leaving impact were the rookie players Karnataka blooded, namely medium-pacer HS Sharath and top-order batsmen Lokesh Rahul and Kunal Kapoor. And then there was Abhimanyu Mithun in the last match of the round.
Here, Cricketnext charts their course to the knockouts:
1st match: Karnataka 284 (Robin Uthappa 82, KB Pawan 56, Stuart Binny 55) & 102 for 1 drew with Baroda 406 (Binny 5/65) & 249
Karnataka's first match produced one point, as they came up second to hosts Baroda at the Moti Bagh Stadium. Stuart Binny had a fine all-round match, taking five wickets out of Baroda's first innings of 406, and then scored 55 to hold up the innings after the openers had been dismissed for fifties. Set an improbable 372 to win with time running out, Karnataka batted out a draw at 102 for 1 with Robin Uthappa following up his first-innings 82 with 43.
2nd match: Karnataka 562 for 6 (Ganesh Satish 200*, CM Gautam 130, Pawan 59, Uthappa 53) drew with Tamil Nadu 538 for 4
Having conceded 538 to hosts Tamil Nadu, Karnataka rallied through brilliant innings from Ganesh Satish and wicketkeeper CM Gautam and ended up with three points from this gripping draw. At 289 for 5 Karnataka looked in big trouble in what became a first-innings shoot out, but Satish and Gautam combined for an 181-run stand that delivered the lead. Satish batted nearly 11 hours in the Chennai heat for his maiden double, at which point the match was called off; Gautam left the field after dislocating his should while celebrating his century, went off hurt, and came back to remain not out on 130.
3rd match: Karnataka 181 (Manish Pandey 54, Amit Verma 52) & 274 for 8 (Pandey 76, Satish 70) drew with Uttar Pradesh 282 (HS Sharath 5/67) & 343 for 5
A stubborn ninth-wicket partnership on the final day between Gautam and KP Appanna averted defeat and ensured Karnataka one point from their match in Meerut. Uttar Pradesh had set themselves 91 overs to bowl out Karnataka and were on course before Gautam and Appanna batted more than 10 overs to deny then six points. Manish Pandey and Satish had put on 122 in 30 overs but Pandey's run out had threatened to turn the tide against Karnataka.
4th match: Karnataka 213 (Uthappa 43) & 179 (Uthappa 45, Binny 42) lost to Odisha 202 (SL Akshay 4/40) & 255 (R Vinay Kumar 7/58) by 65 runs
After three away games, Karnataka returned home to Bangalore and suffered a shock defeat to a resurgent team. A fine bowling effort from the four medium-pacers bowled Odisha out for 202, but then Karnataka made 213, without a single fifty. Vinay Kumar produced a seven-wicket haul to restrict Odisha to 255 in their second innings which left the hosts a target of 245. From 43 for 1 overnight, Karnataka lost Satish early and then Uthappa and Pandey in the space of one over. Binny resisted with 42 before he and Vinay fell in consecutive balls. The end came soon, leaving a dazed Karnataka on five points from four matches. The quarter-finals looked a distant possibility.
5th match: Karnataka 192 (Binny 61) & 475 for 9 (Binny 85, Uthappa 81, Lokesh Rahul 73, Gautam 71, Pandey 61, Abhimanyu Mithun 52) beat Delhi 258 (Sharath 4/52) & 250 by 159 runs
After the low, Karnataka experienced a high in the next round when they knocked off Delhi by 159 runs at Bangalore – this despite having conceded the first-innings lead. The match began poorly as they were bowled out for 192, with Binny's 61 the only innings of note. Sharath, in his third match, bowled well for 4 for 52 that kept Delhi's lead to 66, and that proved the incentive the batsmen needed. In the second innings, six players scored fifties to power Karnataka to 475 for 9; a declaration set UP 410 to win and three wickets went down before stumps on day three. Needing to save the game, Delhi were given hope from the experienced pair of Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia but once the former was dismissed, Karnataka made swift inroads. It was a landmark win.
6th match: Karnataka 619 for 8 (Gautam 257, Rahul 157, Binny 85, Pandey 53) & 81 for 3 drew with Vidarbha 447 (Mithun 4/60)
A huge first innings, fashioned largely by Gautam's maiden double-century and 157 to Rahul and boosted by Binny's 85, put Karnataka in command over Vidarbha in Mysore. The first-innings lead was secured with the help of Mithun and Appanna on day four, but with plenty of time lost in doing so all Karnataka could do was bat out time to take three points. Karnataka remained at fifth place on the Group B table, one point ahead of their opponents.
7th match: Karnataka 272 (Kunal Kapoor 106, Uthappa 51) & 332 for 2 (Uthappa 137, Kapoor 100*) drew with Haryana 587 for 9 (Jayant Yadav 211, Amit Mishra 202*, Sunny Singh 56)
It wasn't a win, but it must have felt like one for Karnataka. Having had Haryana at 112 for 5 and then 168 for 7, Karnataka were stunned by a Ranji Trophy record stand of 392 for the eighth wicket between Amit Mishra and Jayant Yadav. Both scored their maiden double-centuries and drove Haryana to 587 for 9, leaving Karnataka to play catch-up. When they were bowled out for 272, with debutant No. 3 batsman Kunal Kapoor scoring 106, and then forced to follow-on, it all looked rather bleak for Karnataka. But then it was Kapoor's turn to enter the record books; the debutant became the first Karnataka batsman to score two centuries and, thanks to Uthappa's first century of the season, Karnataka escaped defeat. That one point gained in Hubli proved much stronger than it looked.
8th match: Karnataka 572 for 9 (Gautam 264*, Binny 168) & 92 for 2 beat Maharashtra 99 (Mithun 6/36, Binny 4/37) & 561 (Sharath 4/100) by eight wickets
Having won just one match, Karnataka still had a shot at reaching the quarter-finals. For that, they needed to win and hope that other results went their way. They achieved their goal and got things to work in their favor elsewhere. Having been put in to bat in Pune, Karnataka stacked up a huge total thanks to Gautam's ubbeaten 264 and Binny's 168. Then came a stunning collapse, as Maharashtra were bowled out for 99. Mithun grabbed six and Binny four to enforce the follow-on. Maharashtra replied solidly with a 156-run stand, and at 351 for 2 they seemed on the way to eliminating Karnataka. But Mithun triggered a collapse with two wickets in the final session, and that left the visitors to get 85. With Uthappa unwell, Kapoor opened but failed, yet Rahul and acting captain Binny knocked off the runs. Elsewhere, Odisha lost and Karnataka were through to the knockout round.