Forty-two’ turned out to be definitive yet again. For in 42 minutes, Kuldeep Sen, in alliance with the irrepressible Aditya Shrivastava, changed the course of a match which often oscillated between tedious and tremendous.
The Madhya Pradesh duo added 50 runs in 52 balls for the tenth wicket to give the visitors the innings lead in an extended first session on the final day of the Ranji Trophy Elite Group ‘B’ contest at the Navule stadium in Shivamogga on Friday.
With a pitch as lifeless, Karnataka’s first-innings 426 was always achievable, especially after Shrivastava showed the way forward on the second day. On the final day, he resumed from an overnight tally of 109 to rise a magnificent 192 from 339 balls in handing MP the three points Karnataka bent their backs relentlessly for.
MP reached 431 all out in 156.4 overs to establish a five-run lead before Karnataka, who ended with a solitary point, reached 62 for 1 declared when the captains shook hands.
While the result would come as a dampener for the tireless bowlers, that they pushed MP this far under pressure was impressive. They were defending 116 runs with overnight batters Shrivastava and Venkatesh Iyer poised to last. Save for a special effort from A Mithun and Ronit More, Shubham Sharma’s men would have tasted success much earlier.
The pace duo bowled with skill and heart in equal measure to give Karnataka sniffing room and then the advantage. After More got Iyer to drive loosely and nick a length away-swinger to KV Siddharth at second slip, Karnataka grew in confidence for MP’s tail was now in view. They had, after all, put an end to the very partnership (200 runs for the fifth-wicket) which had undone the work their batsmen had done.
But given Shrivastava’s poise, it was obvious he wasn’t giving it away. The only hope was to cause damage at the other end, and the pace duo did so, almost.
More sent Mantri back not much later and Mithun came up with two wickets (Kumar Karthikeya Singh and Ravi Yadav) in two balls to raise the hopes and volume of the healthy local crowd in attendance. Gourav Yadav’s run-out — Shrivastava’s wrong call — only added to the drama.