Hyderabad: Favourites Karnataka are well on course to win the Ranji Trophy title after extending their overall lead to 169 runs at stumps on the third day of their summit clash against Maharashtra, here on Friday. Starting the day at 230 for no loss, Karnataka were successful in their plan to bat Maharashtra out of the contest, as they finished the day at 474 for seven in reply to Maharashtra's first innings score of 305.
While No.3 batsman Ganesh Satish (117) was out on his overnight score, opener KL Rahul (131) completed a well-deserved century while veteran Robin Uthappa (72) also hit a stroke-filled half-century to consolidate Karnataka's grip on the proceedings.
While Maharashtra bowlers put up a far better show on the third day taking seven wickets with further addition of 244 runs, the four dropped catches during the second day will certainly come back to haunt the western state. Left-arm paceman Samad Fallah was pick of the bowlers taking three for 74 while medium pacer Shrikant Mundhe also got a couple of wickets for 89 runs.
Off-spinner Chirag Khurana got two wickets for 110 runs in 39.1 overs. The day started with centurion Satish being dismissed in the very first over when he missed trying to defend a Khurana straighter on the back foot. His 212-ball knock contained 16 boundaries.
The 21-year-old Rahul, who was six short of his fourth first-class century, got to the coveted landmark when he swept a Khurana delivery to the mid-wicket boundary. For someone, who is considered to be a national prospect, a hundred in a Ranji Trophy final will do his confidence a world of good.
At the fall of Satish's wicket, veteran Uthappa had come back to bat after having retired hurt with a bruised elbow off Fallah's bowling. He announced his arrival with a sweep towards deep fine leg and a six over long on off Khurana's bowling. Uthappa's 108-ball innings had 10 boundaries and a six.
He was harsh on the spinners as both Khurana and left-arm spinner Akashya Darekar were hit down the ground for straight boundaries. He also punished the pacers Mundhe and Anupam Sanklecha on anything that was bowled on his pads.He got his 50 off 72 balls when he thumped a Mundhe full-toss towards mid-on for a boundary. Incidentally, that shot also levelled Karnataka's score with Maharashtra.
The Uthappa-Rahul duo added 88 runs in 25 overs at a steady run-rate of 3.52 runs per over. Rahul was finally caught when he chased a wide delivery from Mundhe and only managed to edge it to Rohit Motwani behind stumps. He scored 131 off 273 balls with 13 fours and two sixes.
Manish Pandey (36) and Amit Verma (29) got starts but couldn't convert them into big scores. In-form Karun Nair (44, 4x4, 118 balls) looked solid during his stay at the crease but a debatable decision saw him head back to the pavilion. He tried to reverse sweep Khurana but replays were inconclusive as the ball past the bat at the same time when the bat hit the ground.
At stumps, Shreyash Gopal (9 batting) and skipper R Vinay Kumar (8 batting) were at the crease. Having lost to Mumbai in the 2009-10 edition by only six runs, Karnataka will not like to leave anything to chance.
They have opted for safest way to build on a big lead in order to bat Maharashtra out of the final. With two days left, it will be a near impossible task for Maharashtra to make a comeback in this match as chances of ending seven and half decade jinx looks pretty bleak.