Rahul, Karun tons flatten Tamil Nadu
Karnataka 323 for 5 (Rahul 131*, Karun 130*) lead Tamil Nadu 134 by 189 runs
With less than a month to go for the start of the IPL, technicians were testing spidercam at Wankhede Stadium on the sidelines of the second day's play. The drone flew high, so did Karnataka's chances of retaining the Ranji title.
Centuries from Karun Nair and a hobbling KL Rahul - they added an unbroken 239-run partnership for the sixth wicket - had Tamil Nadu on the mat. With a lead of 189 runs and three days remaining, Karnataka appear well poised to defend their title.
The day started on even terms, with Karnataka resuming on 45 for 4. The balance tilted in favour of Karnataka once Tamil Nadu's pacers failed to break through nightwatchman Abhimanyu Mithun early. By the time Mithun perished in the 11th over of the day - adjudged lbw to offspinner M Rangarajan by umpire Anil Chaudhary when the ball may have gone over the bails - Tamil Nadu were playing catch up. It was also their only success of the day.
Rahul came to the crease - he had retired hurt the previous evening due to hamstring strain - and appeared to have difficulty running between the wickets. He batted through the pain, Karun displayed abundant patience and the pair made a lacklustre bowling attack look worse.
Though the pitch offered decent bounce, none of L Balaji, Prasanth Parameswaran and Aswin Crist bent their backs. Instead, they preferred to put the ball on a length and hoped for it to move in the air. Moreover, with Rahul struggling to run, the fielders barely attempted to hurry him by going for the stumps at his end.
The first time a Tamil Nadu fielder tried a direct hit was 15 minutes before stumps. By then, Rahul had crossed his second hundred in as many Ranji finals and helped Karun raise his first century of the season and take the game away from Tamil Nadu. The only time Rahul ran three was to help his partner reach three-figures. Karun flicked Parameswaran through midwicket in the seventh over with the second new ball. Karun celebrated the hundred with a hat-trick of boundaries off Crist in the next over, a flick sandwiched between two cracking drives.
Surprisingly, Tamil Nadu didn't take that new ball immediately. Rahul was on 98 at the time, pulled Vijay Shankar for two he needed for his ton and then Tamil Nadu took the new ball. Though the bowling didn't really challenge him, Rahul deserves praise for not losing concentration. He played though the pain for 338 minutes and took it up a notch by with drives, flicks, pulls and even a reverse sweep off Rangarajan to underline his thirst for runs.
But the bowlers could not pose a threat to the well-set pair. Tamil Nadu's batsmen will have to match Rahul and Karun's efforts, if they are to avoid an outright loss, let alone coming back into the game.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo