Ranji Trophy Final: Karnataka close in on outright win vs Tamil Nadu

Mumbai: Having already retained the title by virtue of their huge first innings lead, defending champions Karnataka are now looking to post an outright win over Tamil Nadu after reducing them to 113 for three in their second essay on day four of Ranji Trophy cricket final here yesterday.

Karnataka posted a massive total of 762 in their first innings after bundling out Tamil Nadu for a paltry 134. At stumps on the penultimate day, Tamil Nadu were struggling in their second innings, still trailing the title holders by a huge 515 runs with seven wickets remaining. Now even if the match ends in a draw, which is one of the only two possible outcomes, Karnataka would retained the Ranji Trophy title at the Wankhede stadium here.

Resuming at an overnight score of 618 for seven today, Karnataka added 144 more runs to their total. Batting since post-tea on the opening day, Karnataka piled on runs as their innings lasted 1044 minutes. The defending champions lost their triple centurion Karun Nair (328) in the first session today but skipper R Vinay Kumar (105) slammed his second Ranji century to guide the team to a mammoth 762.

Vinay Kumar, who resumed on 41, batted patiently during his 319-ball innings and struck 10 fours and three sixes. Incidentally, he became the first captain to score a ton in a Ranji final, besides becoming only the second player after Vijay Hazare to hit a century and take five wickets in a Ranji Trophy final. Nair, who had been batting since the first day, although made a brilliant 328, couldn't surpass his teammate K L Rahul's 337 to be the highest run-scorer for Karnataka.

Nair's marathon 14-and-a-half hour knock came to an end 57 minutes into the day when he was trapped leg before by Vijay Shankar. The 23-year-old added 18 runs to his overnight score and became the highest scorer in a Ranji final, going past Baroda batsman Gul Mohammad's 319 against Holkar in 1946-47. His record came in the second ball off the fifth over when he flicked Laxmipathy Balaji's delivery behind square.

The triple centurion's 872-minute stay at the crease yielded 46 fours and a six while sharing a 142-run partnership with Vinay Kumar for the eighth wicket. He became the third player to score a triple ton in a Ranji match at the Wankhede after Sanjay Manjrekar's 377 against Hyderabad in 1990-91 and Sunil Gavaskar's 340 against
Bengal in 1981-82.

After the departure of Nair, Vinay Kumar batted with Shreenath Aravind and added 83 runs for the ninth wicket. Adding to Tamil Nadu's misery, Aravind compiled his first half century before being caught at backward short leg off Aswin Crist. His 54-ball knock was laced with nine fours. With lunch being extended by half an hour, Vinay Kumar batted patiently with last man H S Sharath to ensure that the holders finished the first session at 748 for nine.

However, 14 minutes after the lunch it was all over for Karnataka when offie Malolan Rangarajan lured Sharath out of his crease with Baba Indrajith, who had taken over the glove duty from Dinesh Karthik, responded with a quick stumping. Balaji and Rangarajan finished with three wickets each, giving away 120 and 183 runs, respectively. Aswin Crist picked up two for 140, while Prasanth Parameswaran and Vijay Shankar bagged wicket apiece.

Tamil Nadu's second innings started on a disastrous note, as they lost skipper Abhinav Mukund (13) with just 30 runs on board. Vinay Kumar, who is the second leading wicket taker this Ranji season so far, trapped the other opener Murali Vijay leg before eight overs later, reducing them to 47 for two. With twins Aparajith and Indrajith at the crease, Tamil Nadu needed them to see off the day, but Indrajith threw his wicket away after hitting a couple of strokes.

He smashed Shreyas Gopal for a six and followed it up with a four, but departed the next ball after getting caught at the slips. At the draw of stumps, Aparajith and Vijay Shankar were batting at 36 and 15, respectively.

Brief scores:
Tamil Nadu: 134 & 113 for three in 40 overs (Baba Aparajith batting 36; Shreyas Gopal 2/36). Karnataka 1st innings: 762 all out in 231.2 overs (Karun Nair 328, K L Rahul 188, R Vinay Kumar 105 not out, Laxmipathy Balaji 3/120, Malolan Rangarajan 3/183).

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