<
>

Agarwal's 169* underpins Karnataka's dominance

Karnataka 348 for 4 (Agarwal 169*, Pandey 74, Samarth 58) v Delhi
Scorecard

Mayank Agarwal followed up his colossal triple-century against Maharashtra with a resolute 169 not out to underpin Karnataka's dominance over Delhi on the opening day of their fifth-round clash in Alur. Agarwal's innings, a veritable mix of daring and determination, was constructed around two century-stands - first with R Samarth, his on-and-off opening partner, and then with a more lively and aggressive Manish Pandey, who hastened Karnataka's march towards 300.

Delhi's bowlers tried hard, but were defeated by Karnataka's ruthlessness.The damp and gloomy weather of the past few weeks made way for clearer skies and scattered clouds. It made for pristine batting conditions, and R Vinay Kumar had little hesitation in electing to bat.

The surface did have some spice for the first hour-and-a-half or so. Delhi's pacers tried to make optimal use of the bounce and carry by hitting the deck hard, but Karnataka's openers buckled down, scoring just eight off the first six overs. KL Rahul signalled a change in that intent when he threw hard hands at a couple of deliveries. But impatience got to him as he tried to pull a short ball that climbed onto him quickly, and top-edged to midwicket.

Karnataka's batsmen left impeccably outside off for much of the morning; it was just to the short ball that they occasionally played the needless shot. Mayank and Samarth raised their fifties within an over of each other; Samarth to a single behind point off a short ball, and Mayank with a neatly-driven four through the covers off Manan Sharma, the left-arm spinner.

Delhi persisted with the short ball for perhaps longer than they should have, and Samarth settled nicely into the pull. Strangely though, Agarwal, the less capable of the two batsmen against that delivery, wasn't tested as much.

It took the scheduled lunch interval to disturb Samarth's concentration as during the second ball after the break, he stayed back to a ripping length ball from left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra that bounced considerably to take the outside edge on its way to Gautam Gambhir at first slip.

Three-quarters of an hour into the second session brought the first cheers from a small but substantial crowd that had steadily built up, when Agarwal stepped down to Mishra and whacked him for a clean and straight six. Mishra pitched it up within Agarwal's arc and was punished for two more straight sixes in his next over.

Contrary to the norm, Agarwal sped up rather than slow down as he approached the century. He raised it off his 136th ball by slashing his favoured late cut through backward point off Manan and followed it up with a Warner-esque celebration, whipping the helmet off and elatedly leaping.

Karun Nair, who had taken a backward seat in the 48-run partnership, perished on the sweep but perhaps to a harsh call, umpire Stephen Harris upholding Delhi's appeal despite the ball appearing to be heading down leg.

Pandey walked out to rousing cheers from the crowd that had considerably swelled up by then. He had Delhi briefly excited during his electric innings, but soon sent them into a shell with punishing strokes on either side.

Delhi's left-arm spinners, seemingly not learning from their mistakes, continued to pitch it up. Pandey crunched a six over long-off against Manan, whose second spell read 3-0-34-1. The fifty-partnership between him and Agarwal took just 58 minutes coming.

The duo kept at it for over an hour after tea, Pandey raising his half-century off 71 balls with a pulled four through midwicket. Agarwal continued to kick down milestones, a short-arm jab to midwicket giving him his 150.

Pandey fell with less than nine overs left in the day, belatedly adjudged caught-behind off Saini. On a day when Delhi's lack of noise on the field was unmissable, their excited celebrations at the end of the 136-run stand made for a rare sight.