Karnewar century helps Vidarbha finish 95 in front

Innings Vidarbha 425 all out (Karnewar 102*, Wadkar 73, Sanjay 65, Chahar 4-112) lead Rest of India 330 by 95 runs

Akshay Karnewar struck his maiden first-class century from No. 8, and the rest of the Vidarbha lower-order batsmen chipped in with useful contributions as they took a crucial 95-run lead against Rest of India on the third afternoon of the Irani Cup game in Nagpur. Karnewar’s 133-ball 102 – with 13 fours and two sixes – helped the Ranji Trophy champions post 425 in response to RoI’s 330.

He was assisted by wicketkeeper-batsman Akshay Wadkar, whose 139-ball 73 arrested a collapse on the second day. From 146 for two, Vidarbha had stuttered to 226 for six at one stage, but the seventh-wicket stand of 79 took them to within touching distance of RoI’s total.

When Wadkar, who began the third day on 50, fell to a full delivery from Rahul Chahar, chopping on to his stumps, Vidarbha were still 25 runs behind, but in No. 9 Akshay Wakhare, Karnewar found a reliable ally with whom he could carry on.

Karnewar soon brought up his half-century, before taking on the slower bowlers. The day’s first six came soon after, when Karnewar smashed Dharmendrasinh Jadeja over midwicket, and he followed it up with a leg glance in the next over to take Vidarbha closer to the RoI total. Wakhare then tickled a length ball down to fine leg, and Vidarbha had the lead – in the 114th over of their innings.

Earlier in the day, Karnewar began aggressively after starting on 15, hitting three consecutive boundaries off Ankit Rajpoot. The flurry even led to a brief exchange of words between the two men. He continued confidently, though, bringing up his century in glorious fashion when he lifted a muscular six over midwicket off Jadeja to get to the milestone in the over before lunch.

The 76-run eighth-wicket stand was finally broken just after the break when Karnewar had a rare lapse in concentration. He shaped to pull Chahar’s half-tracker over midwicket, but the ball stayed low and trapped him in front. Wakhare soon followed, bowled off Chahar’s googly while trying to drive through the off side.

Vidarbha were 56 ahead at that stage, but the last-wicket stand of 39 between Yash Thakur (10) and Rajneesh Gurbani (28 not out) frustrated RoI further after Chahar’s double-breakthrough, and a drive to long-on from the latter took Vidarbha past 400. Rajpoot later claimed the final wicket, with Thakur lbw to one that swung in late.

The base for Vidarbha’s total was set on the second day, though. Contributions from opener R Sanjay (65) and No. 4 Ganesh Satish (48) had taken them towards the 150-run mark for the loss of only two wickets. After that, though, RoI clawed back as the Vidarbha middle order failed to capitalise on the solid start.

Nineteen-year-old Chahar (4-112) was the pick of the RoI bowlers. He dismissed Vidarbha’s two highest scorers – Karnewar and Wadkar – and wasn’t afraid to show off his variations, earning two wickets courtesy his wrong ‘un. Chahar could’ve had a fifth wicket, in fact, when he found the outside edge of Gurbani’s bat in the 140th over, but RoI captain Ajinkya Rahane fluffed the catch at first slip, much to the dismay of the other three close-in fielders.

RoI are now left chasing the game, with just under two-and-a-half days to go.

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