KL Rahul hit 88 (111 balls, 6 fours, 1 six) and shared a century partnership with fellow opener Devdutt Padikkal (92) to power Karnataka to a nine wicket over Chhattisgarh and into the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy in Bengaluru on Wednesday, where they will face Tamil Nadu, who beat Gujarat by five wickets in the other semi-final.
Chasing 224 for victory, the hosts romped home in 40 overs as Rahul and Padikkal and then Mayank Agarwal (47, 33 balls, 3 fours, 4 sixes) toyed with the Chhattisgarh attack.
Batting first, Chattisgarh was in trouble at 19/2 and 35/3 as medium-pacer V Koushik (4/46) did all the damage, removing the openers – Jiwanjot Singh (6) and Shashank Singh – for a duck.
Later, he got Ashutosh Singh (20), who was playing well to nick one to ‘keeper Rahul as Karnataka reduced their opponents to 35/3 in the 11th over.
Skipper Harpreet Singh Bhatia, who has been one of the mainstays of the Chhattisgarh batting in the tournament, which included an upset win over Mumbai in the league, was involved in a 40-run stand with Amandeep Khare (78, 102 balls, 4 fours).
Khare held fort for Chhattisgarh even as the Karnataka bowlers kept plugging away and picked up wickets at regular intervals. He was the eighth wicket to fall, caught by captain Manish Pandey off Abhimanyu Mithun’s bowling.
Sumit Sureshrao Raikar (40, 37 balls, 1 four, 2 sixes) helped Chhattisgarh’s cause with some late hitting before the innings ended in the final over at 223. While Kaushik finished with 4 wickets, Mithun (2/44), off-spinner K Gowtham (2/30) and leggie Pravin Dubey (2/43) were among the wickets.
In the chase, Rahul and Padikkal kept Karnataka ahead of the required run-rate and played some beautiful shots. The left-handed Padikkal continued his fine run, notching up his fifth half-century on the trot.
Rahul, who was recently dropped from the India Test team, showed his class with some lovely strokes and finished the match with a superb straight six. Padikkal missed out on a well-deserved ton, being bowled by Ajay Mandal for 92.
After his 155-run opening partnership with Padikkal, Rahul and Mayank Agarwal (47*), fresh from his exploits in the Test series against South Africa, added 74 runs in impressive fashion.
In the Tamil Nadu-Gujarat encounter, the Dinesh Karthik led side chased down their opponent’s 177/9 in a game reduced to 40 overs due to a late start owing to overnight rain and a wet outfield. Tamil Nadu romped home with an over to spare, thanks to an enterprising half-century by the talented M Shahrukh Khan.
Gujarat couldn’t recover from the early loss of their batting mainstays Parthiv Patel and Priyank Panchal, making only make 177/9 in 40 overs.
India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who joined the Tamil Nadu team after being part of the squad that whitewashed South Africa in the three-match Test series, struck the first blow, dismissing Panchal for 3. He bowled well to finish with 1/21 from his quota of eight overs.
Washington Sundar struck a big blow for TN by getting rid of Parthiv Patel for 13 (11 balls, 2 fours) to leave Gujarat at 16/2 in the 5th over.
Dhruv Raval was the top-scorer with 40 while Axar Patel (37) and tail-ender CT Gaja (24) were the other important contributors.
For Tamil Nadu, medium-pacer M Mohammed with 3/33 was the best bowler, while Washington Sundar, R Ashwin and leggie Murugan Ashwin (1/33) and T Natarajan picked up a wicket each.
In reply, Tamil Nadu saw the experienced and in-form Murali Vijay depart early, bowled by Gaja. The profific Baba Aparajith didn’t last too long, caught by Parthiv off Axar Patel for 6.
Abhinav Mukund (32, 65 balls, 3 fours), who has been in good form in the league phase and Dinesh Karthik (47, 47 balls, 5 fours) steadied the ship.
However, the loss of three quick wickets put Tamil Nadu under pressure before Washington Sundar (27 not out, 43 balls, 2 fours) and the young M Shahrukh Khan (50 not out, 46 balls, 3 fours, 3 sixes) took the team home in style, winning with an over to spare. The final will be played on Friday.
Brief scores: Gujarat 177/9 in 40 overs (Dhruv Raval 40, Axar Patel 37, M Mohammed 3/33) lost to Tamil Nadu 181/5 in 39 overs (M Shahrukh Khan 50*, Dinesh Karthik 47, Abhinav Mukund 32) by 5 wickets.
Chhattisgarh 223 all out in 49.4 overs (Amandeep Khare 78, SS Ruikar 40, V Koushik 4/46) lost to Karnataka 229/1 in 40 overs (Devdutt Padikkal 92, KL Rahul 88*, Mayank Agarwal 47*) by 9 wickets.