All-round Haryana knock out Karnataka
Haryana 272 (Dewan101, Saini 69, Binny 4-54) and 144 for 4 (Saini 52) beat Karnataka 151 (Patel 8-40) and 262 (Uthappa 53, Rana 3-42) by six wickets
Haryana were third time lucky. After being forced out of the quarter-finals in two previous seasons by stronger teams, Haryana qualified for the semis for the first time since 1990-91, when Kapil Dev's team went on to beat Bombay by two runs in one of the most tense finals in Ranji Trophy history. Amit Mishra's team secured their spot in the final four with a six-wicket victory against Karnataka, a shock defeat for the hosts.
Chasing 142 for victory, Haryana's openers Rahul Dewan and Nitin Saini built a formidable platform for the second time in the match. Saini had been the navigator during the first-innings stand of 152, but today he dominated the partnership of 75. He reached his second half-century of the game by cover-driving Stuart Binny towards the end of the second session.
Immediately after the tea break, however, NC Aiyappa seamed the old ball into the pads of Saini, who reacted lazily, and it deflected on to the stumps. A couple of overs later Dewan was also deceived by late away movement from Binny and was caught behind. Then Sunny Singh, attempting to play a shin-high delivery on the leg side, mistimed the shot and the leading edge went back to the bowler SL Akshay.
Akshay made good use of the cracks in the pitch and Sachin Rana was the second Haryana batsman to get deceived by the variable bounce. Four wickets had fallen for 32 runs, but Prateek Pawar and Priyank Tehlan secured victory with a 35-run partnership.
In hindsight, the 74-run partnership for the eighth wicket between Mishra and Mohit Sharma in the first innings proved decisive. It helped Haryana recover after seven wickets had had fallen for 36 runs and also gave then a lead of 121. Karnataka could single out two causes for their defeat: a lack of partnerships and sloppy fielding, a problem they've had through the season.
They suffered from it today, too. Dewan was on 5 when he edged Aiyappa and was dropped by wicketkeeper CM Gautam. Two balls later Dewan was opened up by a fabulous delivery that shaped away after pitching on off stump. Gautam misread the line this time and moved to the wrong side, allowing the thick outside edge to go for four. Aiyappa was visibly annoyed. Such errors allowed Saini and Dewan to regain rhythm and build a crucial opening partnership, which formed the spine of Haryana's victory. For the hosts, there were no such alliances.
Karnataka had started the day leading by one run with seven wickets in hand, but lost Amit Verma off the first delivery. Harshal Patel, Haryana's hero on the first day with eight wickets, trapped Verma lbw with one that pitched a few inches outside leg stump. The umpire Amiesh Saheba deliberated for a moment before raising his finger.
Bowling with an upright seam, Patel got the ball to reverse swing straightaway had nearly had Binny lbw with the final ball of the same over. Binny survived because of an inside edge. The combination of several cracks in the pitch and early morning moisture hindered the batsmen's movements.
The Karnataka captain Ganesh Satish was a victim of the variable bounce, when Rana hit one of the cracks and deviated the ball into the pads, hitting him shin height in the line of off stump. All three of Rana's victims were lbw, caught plumb by the incoming delivery.
Binny then committed a terrible mistake. Facing the first delivery from the medium-pacer Sharma, Binny played a golf-swing like drive over mid-on, and the leading edge sailed into the hands of Dewan at point. Karnataka's lead was only 48 and they had lost six wickets. Gautam, the last specialist batsman, departed to an equally unnecessary stroke - an attempted cut against Ashish Hooda from outside off stump, which was edged to Saini.
Karnataka's tail, however, wagged longer than expected, adding 79 runs for the last three wickets. Sunil Raju and Akshay had a 33-run partnership for the eighth wicket and a 40-run stand between KP Appanna and Aiyappa added to Haryana's frustration. It did not matter in the end, though, because the underdogs Haryana played with grit to make the semi-finals.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo