Rahul hits 92 after Delhi concede lead

Karnataka 649 (Agarwal 176, Binny 118, Shreyas 92, Manan 3-151, Mishra 3-152) and 235 for 3 (Rahul 92, Samarth 47) drew with Delhi 301 (Gambhir 144, Shorey 64, Mithun 5-70)

KL Rahul getting some much-needed batting time ahead of the Sri Lanka Tests with a stroke-filled 92 was the biggest takeaway from an unpalatable final day in Karnataka’s Group A clash against Delhi in Alur. The home team grabbed a 348-run first-innings lead, but refrained from enforcing the follow-on, Vinay Kumar opted to give his bowlers a rest, perhaps having recognised the surface lacked bite to force a result.

Karnataka marched to 235 for 3 when the teams shook hands at 3.15pm local time, half an hour after the tea break. The home team took three first-innings points to retain their top position in Group A, with a knockouts berth within touching distance.

The predictable end didn’t seem coming early in the morning, though. Abhimanyu Mithun’s second successive five-for brought a tapering contest to life as Delhi unraveled spectacularly to fold for 301. R Samarth, who was a livewire on the field, set the tone with a stunning catch at gully to send back Milind Kumar. But he was just warming up.

Off the next delivery, Samarth stopped a delicate dab behind short leg by sticking his left hand out and then quickly transferring the ball to his right and then flick the ball onto the stumps to catch Manan Sharma short of the crease.

Karnataka opted for the second new ball after the twin strikes, and Mithun continued to bowl at a lively pace. Gautam Gambhir, the overnight centurion, who had impressed with an off-side game par excellence on the third day, pursued an expansive drive. It was Samarth once again in the thick of things as he pouched the catch at gully.

Navdeep Saini, reprieved by Rahul at first slip, was trapped plumb in front by Vinay as Delhi lost their penultimate wicket shortly after crossing 300. The innings drew to a close when Mithun dished out a short ball to send the last man packing. By then, Delhi lost their last six wickets for 24 in closr to an hour. The passage exhibited the quality of Karnataka’s bowling and fielding.

With the pitch continuing to remain flat, Karnataka’s openers traced to a 121-run opening stand in no time, with Rahul dominating courtesy drives, sweeps and cuts. Samarth took off with a blazing straight drive but then made for a study in contrast as he buckled down.

Rahul raised his half-century with a slog-swept six off Milind in the sixth over after lunch and followed it with a crisp drive through the covers. A mindless run out denied him well-deserved century. Rahul dabbed one gently to backward point and casually strode out for a single without looking at the fielder. Nitish Rana swooped down quickly and fired a direct hit at the bowler’s end.

The rest of Karnataka’s batsmen tried to make the most the time on hand to get some practice for the season ahead. Mayank Agarwal struck a brisk 23, before chopping on a short ball that was too close to him. The popular duo of Karun Nair and Manish Pandey struck thirties, occasionally giving a sizable Sunday crowd something to cheer with their crisp strokes, and steering the game to its tedious conclusion.

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