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Karnataka win away from historic treble

Calcutta: With the city revelling in the festival of colours, one wonders how many cricket fans will actually turn up at Eden Gardens on Sunday to watch Karnataka take on Railways in the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.

But that, naturally, will not be the concern for both teams, specially Karnataka, who are on the threshold of a historic treble in one season. Having already won the Ranji Trophy and the Irani Cup, they are favourites to take home this one too.

Captain Vinay Kumar, though, had throughout the tournament played down their favourites tag, saying that one-day cricket is a different ball game and it can be anyone’s day. They also have a point to prove since they have never won the title in the one-day format.

Railways, on the other hand, did lift the trophy in 2005-06. What tilts the balance in Karnataka’s favour on Sunday is that fact that they have been playing well as a team.

Vinay Kumar, eager to make a pitch for an India berth again, has led with his pace bowling. In the semi-final, against Jharkhand, he, along with Abhimanyu Mithun, took seven wickets and that in effect nullified Ishank Jaggi’s brilliant 141 that almost took the game away from Karnataka.

Robin Uthappa has proved again that he is the mainstay with the bat, having scored two back-to-back centuries — in the quarter finals and the semi-final.

Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair and Lokesh Rahul have also pitched in, and if they do fire in unison, the Railway bowlers will have a tough job at hand.

The Eden track has proved to be bowler friendly in this tournament. But while the earlier matches had been played under lights, the final will be a day affair.

Railways may have the edge as far as familiarity with the ground is concerned. They have played their two knockout matches at Eden, while Karnataka had played only at the Jadavpur University Campus ground.

The Railways have a rather formidable pace attack in Anureet Singh, Krishna Kant Upadhyay and Chanderpal Saini, while Karn Sharma and Ashish Yadav will hold fort in the spin department.

Railways, who thrashed Bengal in the semi-final by five wickets on Friday, will again look to the likes of Amit Paunikar, Shivakant Shukla and Mahesh Rawat to put the runs on the board.

Coach Abhay Sharma sounded confident ahead of the final. “Karnataka are a good side and they are getting runs. But we too have played good cricket.