Kolkata, Dec 20: Vidarbha rode pacer Rajneesh Gurbani’s match-changing spell in the final session of the fourth day to stand on the brink of their maiden Ranji Trophy final appearance, needing just three wickets to win against Karnataka in the semi-final clash here at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday.
Karnataka, 111/7, still need 87 runs to avoid an embarrassing reversal. Alongwith Shreyas Gopal (1), skipper R Vinay Kumar (19) was at the crease during close of play, called early due to bad light.
Wiping out Karnataka’s first innings lead of 116 runs, Vidarbha — resuming at 195/4 — showed great fighting spirit by posting 313 on the board in the second innings riding overnight batsman Ganesh Satish’s fine 81 and Akshay Sarvate’s fighting 55.
Vidarbha set Karnataka a target of 198 runs for victory.
Gurbani then (4/35) continued his dream run and was well supported by Siddhesh Neral (2/37) and Umesh Yadav (1/32) to leave the more fancied side on tenterhooks.
It could have been two wickets that separated them and a final spot had Wasim Jaffer completed Gopal’s catch at first slip towards the end of play.
The Vidarbha bowlers always looked threatening with South Africa-bound Umesh getting rid of in-form Mayank Agarwal (3) early by taking a brilliant catch off his own bowling as the batsman got a leading edge.
R. Samarth (24) and Nischal D (7) tried to build a partnership with Nischal getting two reprieves.
First wicketkeeper Akshay Wadkar grassed the ball when he was batting on 4 and then he survived a strong leg before appeal with the ball hitting his back pad and replays showing he was plumb.
Samarth was lbw to Neral, the Test specialist beaten for pace and caught in his crease playing outside the line.
In the same over, Nischal followed suit, following an away-moving delivery and edging the ball to keeper Wadkar.
At tea, the match was on the boil with Karnataka 69/3 still needing 129 runs for victory.
Right after the break, Gurbani took the big wicket of Nair (30) — who scored 153 in the first innings — making the most of the ball moving away off the seam with the batsman chasing it and as a result giving an easy catch to the wicketkeeper.
Alongwith CM Gautam (24), Nair stitched a 41-run stand for the fourth wicket but things started to fall apart for the eight-time champions once Binny (0) and Gowtham K (1) were adjudged lbw off Gurbani’s inspired bowling.
Between Binny and Gowtham’s dismissals, Gautam fell to Gurbani also, caught behind.
Earlier, Vidarbha succumbed to a ferocious spell by Binny (7-1-28-2) where he first brought an end to Akshay Wadkar (28) and Satish’s crucial fifth wicket stand of 72 runs.
Wadkar poked at a length Binny (3/74) delivery which was pitched outside off-stump with the ball flying to Karun Nair at first slip.
Soon after, Abhimanyu Mithun (1/47) got the prized wicket of Satish with a short delivery that the overnight batsman tried to pull. The ball took a top edge off the bat and landed safely in the hands of Sreenath Aravind at fine leg.
Binny was at it again, this time not letting Akshay Wakhare (0) trouble the scorers with a away-moving delivery which was pitched outside off again to catch Wakhare’s outside edge and travel to Samarth at second slip.
With the score on 228/7, Vidarbha needed their tail to add some quickfire runs and that’s exactly what Sarvate (55) and Neral (12) did to take the lead to 129 before Vinay Kumar (3/71) returned for another spell and dislodged Neral who gave an outside edge to Mayank Agarwal at third slip.
Sarvate and Umesh (13) then hit some lusty blows to stitch together a useful 38-run partnership before the latter fell to Shreyas Gopal’s googly. Sarvate’s superb knock finally came to end with Vinay Kumar trapping him in front. Gurbani was not out on 7 as their innings ended.
Brief scores: Vidarbha 185 & 313 (Ganesh Satish 81, Aditya Sarvate 55; VInay Kumar 3/71, Stuart Binny 3/74; Karnataka 301 & 111/7 (Karun Nair 30; Rajneesh Gurbani 4/35, Siddesh Neral 2/37)