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Agarwal, Binny tons put Karnataka in command

Delhi 20 for no loss trail Karnataka 649 (Agarwal 176, Binny 118, Shreyas 92, Manan 3-151, Mishra 3-152) by 629 runs
Scorecard

For the second day in a row, Karnataka optimised their use of supreme batting conditions to wear down Delhi in their Group A Ranji Trophy clash at the KSCA Ground in Alur. Mayank Agarwal's unwavering focus took him to 176, Stuart Binny cracked only his second century for Karnataka in three years, and Shreyas Gopal almost became the third centurion of their innings. When he was out for 92, the last man to be dismissed, Delhi's misery finally ended, after 172.2 overs, in which Karnataka had piled on 649. In reply, Delhi openers Gautam Gambhir and Unmukt Chand confidently saw off the five overs to stumps.

Agarwal strode out with an almost tangible purpose and determination to bat on until he physically couldn't anymore. It was only by means of a run out that Delhi could finally find an opening past his unshakable confidence. Struck on the pads, and with Delhi fervently pleading with the umpire, Agarwal called for a leg bye only to be sent back by Binny and be felled by a direct throw from backward point. An innings of steely determination and obstinacy ended with Agarwal walking off to a richly-deserved ovation from a crowd that had gathered a lot more rapidly than on the first day.

Delhi's first-session plan was an exact replica of Thursday's. Fourteen deliveries into the day, they took the second new ball, and their pacers banged it into the surface at pace. It did result in a couple of uncontrolled pulls and a top-edged four through fine leg, but nothing to substantially trouble the batsmen.

Binny and CM Gautam then fared comfortably against the short ball. Spin arrived in the form of Vikas Mishra in the 14th over of the morning; nine deliveries later, Karnataka raised their 400, looking good for many more.

Binny and Gautam maintained an impressive pace through most parts of their partnership. Both batsmen preferred hitting the boundaries; the fifty of the partnership, which arrived in 80 balls, had eight of them. Binny was the more aggressive of the two and did the bulk of the scoring. He capitalised on Manan's overcompensations with length to crunch back-to-back fours and bring up his half-century.

Desperate for a breakthrough, Rishabh Pant rotated his bowlers, but it soon got to the extent where it became the overriding theme of Delhi's morning session. No bowler was given a chance to settle into any kind of spell, and Karnataka hardly broke a sweat in collecting their runs.

Having settled in nicely, Gautam then paid the price for disregarding a change in field. He had made good use of the sweep, but it worked against his favour when he failed to meet the pitch of a fullish Manan ball and top-edged to short fine leg, who had moved from short midwicket just the previous over. Regardless of the position they were in, the dismissal was to the great dismay of Karnataka, considering under ten minutes were left for lunch.

Delhi, though, graciously returned the favour after the break when Binny slashed Navdeep Saini away from his body only for Chand to let the ball burst through his fingers and give the batsman his hundred.

Heavily built on boundaries, Binny's innings ended shortly after Karnataka raised their 500 when he checked a punch to one that stopped on him off Vikas Tokas, who stuck his left hand out on the follow-through. K Gowtham, dropped on 5 by Manan off his own bowling, didn't make Delhi sweat as he lost his stumps to an expansive drive against Vikas Mishra. And R Vinay Kumar, the captain, charged down the track to Manan and was stumped. By then, Karnataka were nine down and it was evident they were trying to force the issue with a declaration looming.

But if Delhi had thought that would mean the end of their long, arduous stay on the field, they were in for a rude shock. Shreyas and Abhimanyu Mithun buckled down for a last-wicket stand of 101 to keep them on the field for over an hour-and-a-half more.

What would perhaps have frustrated Delhi more was that unlike the preceding few minutes, Karnataka actually slowed down, showing they were far from tired of batting. Shreyas displayed his usual poise and characteristically good technique, deftly getting to the pitch of the delivery and defending solidly.

Mithun, to his credit, did much of the same, only occasionally stepping out to the spinners, when he was extremely sure of the trajectory, and smashing them around. One of those, a straight four off Manan, brought the crowd alive after what had been a dreary few minutes post-lunch.

Once the two settled into the company of each other, out came the big shots again. Shreyas flicked Milind Kumar fine to bring up a well-compiled fifty. The ever-staid Shreyas' unwonted charge to Manan to shovel him over long-on signalled that the end of Karnataka's innings was near.

Watching Karnataka's relentless march, one couldn't help but feel for Delhi's bowlers. The lanky Kulwant Khejroliya especially bowled his heart out but had a solitary wicket and an economy rate of 4.36 to show for his efforts. Moreover, he was warned for running on the pitch by the umpire in his 27th over, which turned out to be his penultimate one.

In a highly condensed final session - the umpires had allowed for a half-hour extension before tea with Karnataka nine down - Shreyas slogged Mishra over midwicket to get into the nineties, but fell to a feeble paddle next ball, getting bowled around his legs.