Lokesh Rahul fetched a Chirag Khurana ball from outside off-stump, bending his knee to powerfully sweep the delivery to the square-leg fence.
The boundary got him his third century this season, but there was no joyous celebration to follow. On Thursday, Ganesh Satish, had violently pumped his fist, waved his bat, and let out a full-throated cry after his ton. Rahul preferred to hit his glove against Robin Uthappa’s and then almost apologetically lifting his bat to acknowledge the Karnataka camp.
Rahul was again treated to the same vociferous reception, an hour later when he took a single off Darekar, a run that took his season’s run-tally past 1000, only the second Karnataka batsmen to do so. Rahul’s 131 along with a flowing 72 from Robin Uthappa took Karnataka to 474/7, 169 runs ahead of Maharashtra at the end of Day Three.
Batting with pain
Inicdentally, both the 21-year-old from Mangalore and Uthappa had to battle discomfort through their innings. While Uthappa had been hit on the elbow on Day Two, Rahul had to contend with chest congestion and fever. “I think whenever you are sick, you tend to bat better. You aren’t feeling too well and just concentrating on the ball keeps your mind away from discomfort,” he said, interacting with the media after the day’s play.
Rahul has 1004 runs at 71.71 in 16 innings this season, but it started off with a poor Duleep Trophy campaign, where he failed to get into double digits in three matches. The 47 he scored against Gujarat in Karnataka’s second group match helped him run into form. At this stage, Rahul feared he was going to get dropped from the side, as was the case a couple of seasons back.
Several long conversations with his teammates followed and Rahul took their advice to loosen up a little. Rahul says that before this season, he was thinking too much. After he watched a few videos of his shots from the televised matches of the season, Rahul found some confidence. And since then his season has turned a corner. On Friday, the wicket was slow, making both scoring runs and taking wickets difficult. Still, Rahul’s innings stood out. He middled the ball sweetly, often using his wrists to create better angles and also changed gears rapidly. Soon after getting to his ton, the right-hander charged out to off-spinner Akshay Darekar, hitting him over long-off. Next ball, Darekar dropped it short and Rahul pounced, placing his cut perfectly to the point fence for four.
Uthappa, on the other hand, was his typical aggressive self. The right-hander came in to bat at Ganesh Satish’s dismissal in the first over of the morning. Like his partner, the senior pro, took a liking to the spinners. On Thursday, Uthappa had scored two boundaries, on Friday he quickly added eight more along with a towering six off Khurana. The two put on 102, taking Karnataka past Maharashtra’s first innings total of 305.
After lunch though, a more disciplined Maharashtra attack emerged. Uthappa was sent back in the first over after the interval. The batsman chased a wide ball, the drive only settling into the hands of point. Manish Pandey compiled 36 before a Samad Fallah in-swinger trapped him in front. At stumps, Maharashtra had Karnataka seven down, Fallah taking three of those, two coming in an inspired spell after lunch. With time running out and a potential 200-run deficit to knock off, Maharashtra may have left it a little too late in the final.
Maharashtra 1st innings 305 all out in 104.4 overs
Karnataka 1st innings
R Uthappa c sub (RA Tripathi) b Mundhe 72, L Rahul c Motwani b Mundhe 131, Ganesh Satish b Khurana 117, M Pandey lbw b Fallah 36, K Nair c Motwani b Khurana 44, CM Gautam c&b Fallah 7, A Verma lbw b Fallah 29, S Gopal batting 9, R Vinay Kumar batting 8.
Extras (b 9, lb 3, w 3, nb 6) 21.
Total (7 wickets; 158 overs) 474.
Fall of wickets 1-230 (Ganesh Satish, 68.5 ov), 2-318 (Rahul, 93.5 ov), 3-345 (Uthappa, 101.4 ov), 4-380 (Pandey, 113.5 ov), 5-394 (Gautam, 119.5 ov), 6-447 (Nair, 146.2 ov), 7-461 (Amit Verma, 151.2 ov); Bowling: S Fallah 32-8-74-3 (2nb), A Sanklecha 25-5-66-0, A Darekar 26.5-4-105-0 S Mundhe 30-4-89-2 (1nb, 3w), C Khurana 39.1-10-110-2, S Atitkar 5-0-18-0
Bowling: S Fallah 16-2-40-0, A Sanklecha 15-3-40-0, A Darekar 9.5-0-49-0, S Mundhe 12-2-43-0, C Khurana 10.1-0-35-0, S Atitkar 5-0-18-0.
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