All's well that starts well
It was their season opener and Karnataka were hoping to be stretched early on. Tamil Nadu obliged and fought hard to only concede a lead of 16 runs. The Karnataka top order, which failed in the first innings, did better in the second and left Tamil Nadu with 368 to win. Then the defending champions bared their teeth. Vinay Kumar struck early, S Aravind completed a late hat-trick and Tamil Nadu were bowled out for 82 on the last day. If only TN had stretched them as much in the final
The G & G show
Ninety-seven, 69, 153 and 83. These were Karnataka's first-innings totals at the fall of the fifth wicket in their first four matches. Then came CM Gautam, the wicketkeeper-batsman and Shreyas Gopal, the legspinning allrounder, and turned the tables every time. While Gautam's consistency fizzled out, Gopal continued to amass runs and did not leave the bowlers with too much to do when they marked their run-ups.
He has opened the batting. He has batted in the middle-order. He has kept wicket. He has given pep talks in the dressing room. Sometimes during matches, he has rushed to Mumbai to have a session with his personal coach Pravin Amre. All his hard work was well worth it as he ended up topping the run-getters' list.
The Mysore rescue act
They hadn't lost a match since November 2012. The streak was in serious danger when Karnataka were reeling at 50 for 6 against a spirited Baroda side in Mysore. With more than half of the last day's play remaining, the G & G show came to the fore again. Though Gautam, leading the team in Vinay's absence, eventually succumbed, Gopal's tenacity secured the draw and the streak.
Before the start of the season, no batsman had scored a triple century for Karnataka. At the end of their campaign, they had two. KL Rahul, returning to domestic cricket after establishing himself as a Test opener in Australia, produced a scintillating 337 against Uttar Pradesh. And Karun Nair, with 381 runs in the season coming into the final, nearly matched his tally in one record-breaking innings of 328 to set up an innings victory in the final.
44 all out
From staring at relegation, Mumbai had staged a remarkable turnaround by making it to the semi-final. So, they had nothing to lose when they came to Bangalore to take on the defending champions. The bowlers gave their team a great chance by dismissing Karnataka for 202 on the opening day. The next 15.3 overs though summed up Karnataka's spirit. The pace attack led by Vinay Kumar forced decimated the Mumbai batting line-up and bundled the 40-time champions for 44 to seal the fate of the game.
Doing a Hazare
Vinay Kumar has led Karnataka's attack for over half a decade. For the last three seasons, he has been leading the team as well. If his 41 wickets, including a six-wicket haul in the semis, hadn't justified his ability to thrive under pressure, he bettered himself in the final. Not only did he pick his third five-wicket haul on the first day but went on to join Vijay Hazare in earning the double of a five-for and a century in a Ranji final.