Hubli: If only Punjab had shown the will to fight a couple of days earlier, the scenario may have been different. Gurkeerat Singh (157) and Gitansh Khera (84) put up a spirited attack, but only managed to delay the inevitable as Karnataka romped home to a 10-wicket victory in their Ranji Trophy encounter here on Tuesday .
With their third victory on the trot, R. Vinay Kumar and his men deservingly earned seven points which included a bonus point. Karnataka are now perched on the top of the table in Group A with 26 points, overtaking Mumbai.
Through the current season, batting has been a concern for Punjab and they again looked set to cave in on the final day after finishing Day 3 at a precarious 156/5, giving the impression that they had no stomach to fight.
But two men who put up a valiant effort, albeit in a losing cause were Gurkeerat and Khera who forged a defiant 186-run sixth wicket partnership to help their team to 361, which meant Karnataka would bat again while needing 30 for victory.
The Karnataka opening duo of K.L Rahul (25) and Mayank Agarwal (8) completed the formalities in 29 deliveries racing to 33 without loss.
At the start of the final day, the hosts' walked in with an innings victory in sight, but 23-year-old Gurkeerat, who resumed at the overnight 56 and Khera (13) were far from willing to hand victory on a platter as the duo notched up their careerbest first class scores.
The Karnataka bowlers, who have been on a song at the KSCA stadium here, saw their plan of action go slightly haywire.
Hoping to wrap up early on a pitch where the ball was not moving off the wicket, they bowled too many shot balls and tried to lure Gurkeerat into playing his preferred hook shot but ended up over-pitching the ball. While Gurkeerat was patient and waited for the loose balls to dispatch, Khera was aggressive.
Gurkeerat brought up his century with a straight drive off Appanna which also rang in their team’s 150.
The new ball was taken with Punjab trailing by 46 runs. Success came four overs later with Vinay trapping Khera in front of the wicket. Post lunch, Punjab stymied the home team for an hour and 10 minutes before Stuart Binny achieved the breakthrough as Gurkeerat attempted to slog and handed a catch to Agarwal at short midwicket.
The youngster from Muktsar found the fence 20 times during his stay at the crease which lasted a shade more than five hours.
Sharath then struck off consecutive balls sending back Manpreet Gony and Sandeep Sharma while Binny cleaned up the tail claiming the wicket of VRV Singh.
Karnataka nearly lost out on the bonus point, when Mayank Agarwal was given caught behind in the third over, but the decision was revoked and the opener recalled by umpire Suresh Shastri after it was ruled that the ball had hit Agarwal’s helmet and not the bat.
Up next for Karnataka are the formidable Mumbai, who are currently placed second.
The two teams face-off at the M. Chinnaswamy stadium, starting December 22.
SCOREBOARD Punjab I innings 174 all out Karnataka I innings 505/9 decl Punjab II Innings (O/N 156/5): Gurkeerat Singh c M. Agarwal b Stuart Binny 157, Gitansh Khera lbw Vinay Kumar 84, Sandeep Sharma c Appanna b Sharath 11, Manpreet Gony c Manish Pandey b Sharath 14, VRV Singh c Vinay Kumar b Stuart Binny 0, Vinay Chaudhary not out 0.
Extras 1 4 (6b, 4lb 3 nb, w 1) Total (all out, 99.1 overs) 361 FoW: 6-301, 7-338, 8-361, 9-361 Bowling: R. Vinay Kumar 21-5-622; Abhimanyu Mithun 19-5-59-3; H.S Sharath 22-3-75-3; Stuart Binny 15.1-1-57-2; K.P Appanna 18-3-70-0; Karun Nair 1-0-9-0; Manish Pandey 1-0-4-0.
Karnataka II innings: Mayank Agarwal (not out) 8, K.L. Rahul (not out) 25, Extras: 0, Total (for no loss, 4.5 overs) 33 Bowling: Sandeep Sharma 2.5-018-0; Manpreet Gony 2-0-15-0 Points: Karnataka 7 points; Punjab 0