Karnataka 253 (Agarwal 90, Makvana 4-34) beat Saurashtra 212 (Pujara 94, Gowtham 3-27, Prasidh 3-37) by 41 runs
Mayank Agarwal's rollicking form continued in the Vijay Hazare Trophy final against Saurashtra, as his 79-ball 90 set up Karnataka's 41-run victory at Feroz Shah Kotla under the watchful eyes of India selectors MSK Prasad and Sarandeep Singh. The title was Karnataka's third Vijay Hazare title win in five years as they defended 253 by bowling out Saurashtra for 212 in the 47th over. Captain Cheteshwar Pujara was the only Saurashtra batsman to cross 30 but his 94 off 127 balls could not take them close to the target.
Agarwal, who missed out on selection for the T20 tri-series in Sri Lanka, increased his domestic season's tally to 2141 runs with two games yet to go in the Deodhar Trophy, and three if Karnataka reach the final.
Pujara opted to bowl in the day game, citing early morning moisture and Jaydev Unadkat's return to the XI as reasons behind his decision. That choice gave Saurashtra early rewards as opener Karun Nair and No. 3 KL Rahul, who recently returned from South Africa, fell for ducks inside the first three overs. Shaurya Sanandia set Nair's wicket up by bowling three outswingers first up before sliding an inswinger off the fourth ball of his over to burst through the Karnataka captain's defense. Rahul fell seven balls later, guilty of running lazily while looking for a single.
With Karnataka at 5 for 2, Agarwal combined once again with R Samarth (48) to rescue their innings. They added 136 runs in 131 balls to set up a solid base for a big finish, but a second collapse - wrapped up by offspinner Kamlesh Makvana's four wickets - ensured Karnataka could not post a huge total. Once Agarwal holed out to long-off in the 25th over, Samarth was bowled for 48 in the next over and Stuart Binny fell for 5 soon after. No. 5 Pavan Deshpande contributed 49 and Shreyas Gopal scored 31 off 28 as Makvana took the last four wickets for 30 runs.
Karnataka also struck with early wickets with their pace bowlers. Opener Samarth Vyas crunched two fours in the first over of the chase, but edged one to the keeper off the over's final ball. Dharmendrasinh Jadeja was promoted from No. 11 to No. 3, but that experiment didn't last long as he chopped one on and Saurashtra were 15 for 2 after 2.2 overs. Pujara came in at No. 4, one spot lower than usual to combine with opener Avi Barot (30).
Barot's solid 43-ball innings came to an end when he holed out to long-on off Binny, attempting to increase Saurashtra's run rate. With Pujara consuming dots at the other end - being 7 off 34 balls at one point - the other Saurashtra batsmen, too, fell chasing the game as the run rate had dropped under four runs per over. First, Ravindra Jadeja - playing as a batsman due to a side strain - top-edged a slog sweep to mid-off, after which Prerak Mankad and Arpit Vasavada fell for ducks to offspinner K Gowtham, reducing them to 101 for 6.
Pujara struck 10 fours and a six overall but his strike rate hovered in the 60s for the longest time. With Saurashtra needing 105 runs off the last 10 overs with only two wickets in hand, Pujara started freeing his arms. He and Makvana collected 30 runs off the 42nd and 43rd overs together, but it was too late.
It didn't help Saurashtra that Pujara was involved in two run-outs: first a mix-up causing Chirag Jani's wicket before the captain fell to a rocket throw from Nair at mid-off. Pujara was the ninth man to go, and nine balls later, Prasidh Krishna knocked Sanandia's leg stump as Karnataka began their celebrations.
Karnataka were missing their frontline bowlers - Vinay Kumar out with an injury while Abhimanyu Mithun was unavailable - and yet their bowlers came through. Fielding a second-string bowling attack, their pacers Prasidh and T Pradeep kept things tight at the top, following which Gowtham strangled Saurashtra's middle order. Both Prasidh and Gowtham took three wickets each. Left-arm quick S Aravind went wicketless but ended his Karnataka career on a high; the final was his last match for the state side because he wants to give more chances to younger players.
Karnataka will play the Deodhar Trophy - that starts on March 4 in Dharamsala - along with India A and India B.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo