It took less than five sessions for hosts Baroda to surprise favourites Karnataka by seven wickets in the shortest ever Ranji semifinal and book a place in the final, to be played from Jan 11-15.
In huge contrast, even before Tamil Nadu had seen the back of half of Rajasthan's batting line-up in the first innings of the other semis in Jaipur, action in this town of the Gaekwads was over on the second day on Tuesday.
No doubt, a rank turner had given undue advantage to the bowlers, especially spinners. However, a series of inexplicable shots combined with the odd bad umpiring decision meant Karnataka were skittled out for 88 in just 32.2 overs in the second innings. That left Baroda to chase a meager 43 to enter the final for the ninth time, which they did for the loss of three top-order batsmen.
The wicket at the Reliance Cricket Ground didn't behave as poorly on Tuesday as it did on the opening day. But Baroda held their nerves much better than their experienced opponents and deserved every bit of the wild celebrations that followed Ambati Rayudu's winning boundary.
"It was a combination of bad wicket and bad batting," a distraught Karnataka skipper R. Vinay Kumar, said. "We didn't expect a turning track in Baroda but having said that, we just didn't bat well enough in both the innings." Baroda's first innings ended on 153 with the last two wickets falling for the addition of 20 runs to their overnight total. Having conceded a 46-run lead, Karnataka were 66 for three at lunch.
With Robin Uthappa having been reprieved three times by Baroda fielders and Manish Pandey looking good, all Karnataka required to put Baroda under pressure was a 50-run partnership. However, just after lunch, a fuller delivery by left-arm spinner Swapnil Singh turned viciously beat Uthappa's bat and landed in Connor Williams' palms at first slip. Umpire Sudhir Asnani upheld the appeal and that started the slide.
Tight bowling by Swapnil and his senior left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt and erratic Karnataka batting saw the visitors lose the last six wickets for 22 runs. Mediocre batting was on display but the pitch didn't live up to requirements.