KL Rahul has been the mainstay of Karnataka’s batting this season. On several occasions, this young lad with solid technique and fine temperament has dragged Karnataka out of a big hole be it their quarterfinal match against Uttar Pradesh or their league match against domestic giants Mumbai.
Considering the importance Ranji Trophy final holds, Rahul’s place in the playing XI was a done deal no matter what.
Hence he played the final despite being unwell for the last one week.
And to his credit, he made it count, scoring a brilliant century, despite having to swallow pills to keep him going during his marathon innings that lasted for 273 balls and 432 minutes.
Rahul (131) first stitched together a 216-run partnership with Ganesh Satish (117) to lay a solid foundation for his team and then carried forward his partnership with the injured Robin Uthappa (72), adding 102 runs before being finally dismissed.
This was Rahul’s third century of the tournament and with it he has also crossed the 1000-run mark in the Ranji Trophy. Only Maharashtra’s Kedar Jadhav has scored more runs than him this season but he has played a match more.
His innings in the final though could not be termed perfect as he offered a few chances. But it doesn’t take away any credit from his contribution to his team's cause as his knock and partnerships with Satish and Uthappa earned the first innings lead for Karnataka.
Even Robin Uthappa was all praise for Rahul. “His eyes were watering yesterday. He was unwell. I even asked him was he alright? But he always thinks of the team and works for the team’s cause,” said Uthappa.
Earlier, overnight centurion Satish was castled in the first over of the day as Chirag Khurana’s ball that pitched on a length just outside the off stump kept low and rattled the woodwork.
The dismissal brought Uthappa back to the crease. During the course of his partnership with Rahul, Uthappa completed his half-century by putting away a fullish delivery from Shrikant Mundhe past mid-on. The shot also leveled the score.
Rahul though departed soon trying to cut Mundhe’s short and wide delivery but by then he had put Karnataka in a formidable position.
The post-lunch session brought some respite for Maharashtra as Uthappa and Manish Pandey were back in the hut in quick succession but by then the damage had already been done.
Uthappa also believed his team is in the driving seat. “We still have batsmen who can score runs. Anything around 250 would be good enough.”
At stumps, Karnataka were leading by 169 runs with skipper Vinay Kumar and Shreyas Gopal at the crease.