The verdict is clear. Even a miracle is unlikely to save Rest of India from the jaws of defeat. Faced with a huge first innings deficit of 405 runs, Rest were struggling at 114/3 in their second innings of the Irani Cup tie against Karnataka at the M Chinnaswamy stadium here on Tuesday.
Having been outplayed completely on the first two days, Rest of India had hoped for change of luck on Day Three, but Karnataka batsmen continued to make merry. Resuming at 390/5, centurion Stuart Binny and CM Gautam had their task cut out. Though Binny departed early, bowled by the tall and hard-working Pankaj Singh, there was no cause for worry for the hosts. A plucky batsman that he is, Gautam found the right ally in his captain R Vinay Kumar.
If it was Binny, who tormented the Rest bowlers with some awesome batting display on Monday, Gautam further piled on the misery with a power-packed 122 studded with 17 boundaries and a six.
Playing with a positive approach, Gautam looked to dominate the Rest attack right from the word go. Cutting and pulling with gay abandon, Gautam soon reached his 50 as the hosts realised 88 runs for the seventh wicket before Vinay (31) was back in the pavilion.
As the day progressed, Gautam continued to haunt Rest bowlers with some lusty attacks. He was more severe on leg-spinner Amit Mishra and used reverse sweep to good effect. There was no hesitation on his part whenever the speedsters tried to test him with bouncers.
Gautam ensured he was there till the end to take his team to a formidable position. Abhimanyu Mithun (34*) threw his bat around as Karnataka were shot out for 606 in 145 overs.
The only consolation for Rest was that Pankaj finished with 6/122 and also reached 300 wickets in first-class cricket.
Fighting with their backs to the wall, all that Rest could hope was to put up a decent fight in their second essay. Gautham Gambhir, who had failed to impress in the first innings, disappointed again. Vinay sent the Delhi left-hander back, caught by a smart catch by Manish Pandey at second slip. Soon, it was the turn of Jiwanjot Singh, who was trapped in front by Vinay.
Baba Aparajith (42 batting) and Kedar Jadhav (44) tried valiantly to redeem the innings. They duo put 71 for the third wicket before leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal held one back that saw Jadhav offering a simple catch to Pandey at mid-off. Rest were still for 291 adrift to make Karnataka bat the second time. Rest's hopes depend largely on Aparajith and his Tamil Nadu team-mate Dinesh Karthik when they resume on Wednesday.
Pleased with his performance, Pankaj said: "It is a good feeling to be amongst wickets. It would have been more satisfying had we restricted Karnataka to a small score."