Karnataka are well on course to winning the Ranji Trophy after extending their overall lead to 169 runs at stumps on the third day of the final against Maharashtra, in Hyderabad, on Friday.
Starting the day at 230 without loss, Karnataka were successful in their plan to bat Maharashtra out of the contest as they amassed 474 for seven by stumps, in reply to 305.
While No 3 batsman Ganesh Satish (117) was dismissed on his overnight score, opener K L Rahul (131) completed a well-deserved century and Robin Uthappa (72) hit a stroke-filled half-century to consolidate Karnataka's grip on the proceedings.
Maharashtra’s bowlers put up a far better show on the third day, taking seven wickets for the addition of 244 runs, but will rue the four catches they dropped during the second day.
Left-arm pacer Samad Fallah was the pick of the bowlers, taking three for 74, while medium pacer Shrikant Mundhe got a couple for 89 runs and off-spinner Chirag Khurana got two for 110 runs in 39.1 overs.
The day started with centurion Satish being dismissed in the first over. He missed the line of the ball, trying to defend a straighter one from Khurana on the backfoot, and was bowled.
His 212-ball knock contained 16 boundaries.
The 21-year-old Rahul, who was six short of his fourth first-class century, got to the coveted landmark when he swept a Khurana delivery to the mid-wicket boundary.
At the fall of Satish's wicket, Uthappa returned to bat, having retired hurt with a bruised elbow off Falllah's bowling on Day 2. He announced his arrival with a sweep towards deep fine leg and a six over long-on off Khurana's bowling.
His 108-ball knock was studded with 10 boundaries and a six. He was harsh on the spinners, as both Khurana and left-arm spinner Akashya Darekar were hit down the ground for straight boundaries. He also punished pacers Mundhe and Anupam Sanklecha on anything that was bowled on his pads.
He got to his fifty off 72 balls by thumping a Mundhe full-toss towards mid-on for a boundary.
Incidentally, that shot also saw Karnataka level Maharashtra’s total.
The Uthappa-Rahul duo added 88 runs in 25 overs at a steady run-rate of 3.52 runs per over.
Rahul was finally caught when he chased a wide delivery from Mundhe and edged it to Rohit Motwani behind the stumps.
He scored 131 off 273 balls, including 13 fours and two sixes.
Manish Pandey (36) and Amit Verma (29) got starts but couldn't convert them into big scores.
The in-form Karun Nair (44, 4x4, 118 balls) looked solid during his stay at the crease but a debatable decision saw him head back to the pavilion.
As he tried to reverse sweep Khurana, the ball went past the bat at the same time as the bat hit the ground. Television replays were inconclusive.
At stumps, Shreyash Gopal (batting 9) and skipper R Vinay Kumar (batting 8) were at the crease.
Having lost to Mumbai in the 2009-10 edition by only six runs, Karnataka have opted to build a huge lead, not leaving anything to chance.
With two days left, it will be a near-impossible task for Maharashtra to make a comeback. Their hopes of ending a seven-and-a-half decade jinx appears bleak.
Image: K L Rahul