Ranji Trophy: Karun Nair's ton helps Karnataka take lead against Punjab
Mohali: Karnataka opened up a 81-run lead with five wickets in hand against Punjab in the semi-final tie at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium on Monday.
In reply to Punjab's first innings total of 270, Karnataka ended the third day's play at 351 for five with Nair batting on his career best score of 107 in company of comeback man Amit Verma, who struck an unbeaten 65.
The duo added 110 runs for the unbroken sixth wicket stand as Harbhajan Singh and Co. were left frustrated with Manish Pandey (65) and wicketkeeper-batsman CM Gautam (48) also making useful contributions.
In the entire day, Karnataka piled up 312 runs to their overnight score of 39 for two and in the process lost only three wickets. With first day's play lost due to inclement weather, the match has effectively turned into a four-day affair where Karnataka will be aiming to bat Punjab out of the contest.
22-year-old Nair, who made his first-class debut this season, scored an even-100 against Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final, while he scored his maiden ton (105) against Delhi at the Feroz Shah Kotla in the match prior to that.
He faced 191 balls during the day hitting nine fours. His innings was a mix of caution and aggression. While he punished the loose balls, he did wait for his chance when the Punjab bowlers were doing a good job.
He was severe on anything offered on the pads, while he did play a lot of strokes late with loose hands opening the face of his bat. He came in at the fall of Robin Uthappa (47), who was trapped in-front by Harbhajan with an off-break, as Karnataka were at 94 for three.
Together with Pandey, Nair added 64 runs for the fourth wicket. Pandey played some good strokes including a pulled six off Manpreet Gony. However, Pandey lost his concentration after his half-century and edged a delivery from Sandeep Sharma to Gitansh Khera behind the stumps.
Once Gautam came in, there was no further damage as the two added 83 runs in only 18.5 overs with the glovesman hitting seven boundaries. Nair, on his part, hit a couple boundaries off Harbhajan's deliveries including one where he came down the track to hit the bowler through cover region.
Harbhajan finally got his second wicket when he fired one down leg side watching Gautam trying to give him the charge. The resultant catch was taken by Jiwanjot Singh at square leg. With 29 runs still to get before taking a first innings lead, Nair found an able ally in left-hander Verma, who was making a comeback into the team having last played a year ago.
He started off with a streaky boundary and his first six runs came off 59 balls. However, in his next five deliveries, he hit four boundaries which also got Karnataka the first innings lead. Nair, on the other hand, reached his third successive ton in 177 balls when he pushed offie Gurkeerat Singh through cover region for a single.