Kerala became the latest victims of the wrath of Ravikumar Samarth and Devdutt Padikkal as the opening duo strung together a second consecutive 200-run stand to propel Karnataka into the semi-finals. The day belonged to skipper Samarth, who posted a career-best score of 192 to slay Kerala.
Brief scores: Karnataka 338/3 off 50 (Samarth 192, Padikkal 101 and Basil NP 3/57) beat Kerala 258 all-out in 43.4 overs (Vathsal 92, Azharuddeen 52 and More 5/36)
The day started well for renowned-chasers Kerala, who won the toss and opted to bowl first, but the toss turned out to be really the only thing that went their way as Samarth and Padikkal, yet again in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, ended up humiliating the bowlers. Following an astonishing 285-run stand in their previous encounter versus Railways, Padikkal (101) and Samarth (192) strung together yet another monster partnership as they added 249 runs for the first wicket, grounding the Kerala bowlers down mercilessly. After a rather watchful start, scoring 52 off the first 10 overs, both Samarth and Padikkal cut loose and did not look back.
Samarth, who’d already scored tons against Bihar and Railways, brought up his third century of the tournament by getting to the three-figure mark first, while young Padikkal followed suit. Despite slowing down considerably towards his ton, Padikkal got to the three-figure mark and created history by doing so, equalling the record for the most consecutive List A centuries by any batsman in the game’s history (4). Immediately after his ton, Padikkal fell to Basil NP, who was the pick of the bowlers for Kerala with 3 wickets to his name, but that, ironically, ended up being counterproductive for the Kerala side.
Post the dismissal of Padikkal, Karnataka added a remarkable 89 runs off just 7.2 overs, with Samarth, who launched a tirade of boundaries towards the end, falling just eight short of a maiden double-ton. The Karnataka skipper was well-supported by the returning Manish Pandey, whose 20-ball 34 propelled the defending champions to a daunting total of 338.
Needing 339 to book a place in the semi-final, Kerala got off to the worst start imaginable as they lost their highest run-getter and man-in-form Robin Uthappa in just the 4th over for 2 runs. 13/1 soon became 15/2 and after the 12 over mark, Kerala were reeling at 52/3, with Ronit More being the wrecker in chief. A partnership was what was needed for Kerala, and they got that in the form of a 59-run stand between young Vathsal Govind and skipper Sachin Baby, but the captain perished to the bowling of Krishnappa Gowtham with the score of 115.
In walked Mohammed Azharuddeen with a near-impossible task at hand and the SMAT history-maker, for a brief while, looked like he might end up doing the impossible. In a knock that comprised 5 fours and 2 humongous sixes, the newest RCB recruit pummelled the Karnataka bowlers to all parts of the ground but he ended up playing one shot too many as he was eventually stumped off the bowling of Shreyas Gopal.
By now, Kerala had lost all their specialist batsmen and the task proved too much for Vathsal Govind, who, for the second match running, perished in the 90s. With Kerala reduced to 217/9, wrapping up the tail was a mere formality for Karnataka, and it was done with oomph by Ronit More, who ended up picking the second five-wicket haul of his List A career. Eventually, Kerala (258) lasted just 43.4 overs as the Samarth-led side registered a thumping 80-run win to book their place in the semi-final.