Uday Kaul gets ton in drawn match
Punjab 357 (Sidhana 92, Kanwar 89, Goel 71) and 274 for 8 dec (Kaul 100*, Sidhana 73, Aiyappa 4-70) drew with Karnataka 281 (Binny 119, Gautam 62) and 157 for 1 (Uthappa 68, Pawan 57*)
Punjab had the unenviable task of facing the top two teams in the table away in their final two rounds of a tightly contested group. They will be satisfied with how the first of those matches have gone, after taking three points on the basis of a first-innings lead against Karnataka at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. The one point Karnataka earned though was enough to keep them on top of the table. They are now through to the quarter-finals.
A draw was the overwhelming favourite at the start of the final day, and there were few surprises as Punjab batted till almost an hour after lunch to leave Karnataka an improbable 351 to get in 49 overs. Uday Kaul made his second century of the season before Punjab ended their innings but Man-of-the-Match Mayank Sidhana was run out for 73 after looking good to get to a hundred. The only chance of there being an exciting conclusion to the match was if Punjab scored quick runs early on and set Karnataka a challenging target in the hope of pulling off an outright win, but there was no such intent from the visitors.
Karnataka, already hamstrung by the absence of bowlers S Aravind and Stuart Binny, generously spilled chances in the field. Ganesh Satish, substitute Syed Moinuddin and KB Pawan all put down catches as Punjab cruised on the final day. Sidhana began confidently with several crisply driven boundaries and soon brought up the 100 of his partnership with Kaul. It was through a sharp bit of fielding, though, that the breakthrough finally came, Amit Verma firing in a direct hit from mid-on to catch Sidhana short.
With Karnataka not even able to use Robin Uthappa as a medium-pacer - he was filling in as wicketkeeper for the injured CM Gautam - left-arm spinner KP Appanna had plenty of work to do, bowling unchanged through a two-and-a-half hour morning session. Kaul didn't look as assured as Sidhana had, but he preserved, profitably using the cover drive during his century. By the time he reached the landmark, after lunch, chances of an outright win were nearing zero.
It was not all gloom for Karnataka, though; fast bowler NC Aiyappa finished his comeback game with seven wickets. He was on a hat-trick soon after lunch when he sent the stumps of both Rahul Sharma and Harmeet Singh flying out of the ground. He wasn't able to get a third next ball, but his form was an encouraging sign for Karnataka, who are without their three first-choice fast bowlers for the next couple of matches.
Uthappa, who had fallen for a golden duck in the first innings, came out and whacked the ball around to pick up a quick half-century. Most of his shots were down the ground, including five sixes, and around tea the only interest was whether he would reach a hundred. He was bowled for 68 by Rahul Sharma, though, and the remainder of the match was about cautious batting as Pawan helped himself to a half-century.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo