Punjab v Karnataka, Ranji Trophy, semi-finals, Mohali, 4th day January 21, 2014

Bad light further dims Punjab hopes

Karnataka 447 for 5 (Nair 151*, Verma 114*, Pandey 65) lead Punjab 270 (Jiwanjot 74, Vinay 5-27, Shreyas 3-92) by 177 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Barring an outlandish day of cricket on Wednesday, Karnataka will take on Maharashtra in the Ranji final next week. Bad light allowed only 36.1 overs of play on the fourth day in Mohali, which robbed Punjab of the time they needed if they were to mount a dramatic comeback after having conceded the first-innings lead.

The loss of overs means Karnataka's streak of outright victories is likely to end at six, but they won't mind that minor blip as the weather strengthened their position in the semi-finals. The umpires had the light-meter out even before the first ball was bowled on a gloomy morning, and the device made frequent appearances through a day of stop-start action.

When the light was good enough to play, Punjab's bowling attack wasn't good enough to make a breakthrough on what was still a reasonably good track to bat on. The overnight batsmen, Karun Nair and Amit Verma, stretched their partnership to 206 before play was stopped for the final time in the day.

The moment of the day came in the 133rd over when Verma cracked a short and wide ball past point to bring up his century. Verma had been an integral part of the Karnataka side when they last reached the Ranji final, four seasons ago. This year, however, this was his first game. The frustration of having been on the sidelines all season gave way to sheer joy, as he immediately threw his hands up in the air after playing the shot. He jumped and screamed, arm windmilling as he enjoyed the moment.

There wasn't much joy for Punjab all day. Nair was less assured than he had been on Monday, getting beaten or edging the ball several times, but he didn't throw away his wicket, marching on to an unbeaten 151. Karnataka's lead was 177 at stumps, and with the forecast not the best for the final day, there is virtually no chance for Punjab to come back in this game.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo