A day after being ignored by the selectors for the T20 tri-series in Sri Lanka, Mayank Agarwal let his bat do the talking with a stroke-filled 90 which guided Karnataka to their third Vijay Hazare title as they outplayed Saurashtra by 41 runs in the final on Tuesday. Agarwal, who is enjoying a dream run, was a stand-out performer in Karnataka's 253 in 45.5 overs.
In reply, Saurashtra could never force the pace as Cheteshwar Pujara's sedate 94 off 127 balls wasn't enough to take them beyond 212 in 46.3 overs.
While Pujara got his runs, wickets fell at the other end and the skipper left a bit too much for the rear, which ended in disappointment.
Off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3 for 27 in 10 overs. The tournament belonged to Agarwal, who finished with 723 runs in the tournament and a staggering 2141 runs in the season with two tournaments still to go. He hit 11 fours and three sixes in his 79-ball innings.
"It has been a dream run for me. A crazy season. I thank the (Karnataka) selectors for showing faith in me when I was going through a tough time. I feel a lot more confident.
Also recently I proposed my girlfriend and she said yes," a satisfied Agarwal said after the match.
It's not always easy to concentrate a day after facing disappointment of being overlooked but Agarwal's batting had no such signs. Jaydev Unadkat was driven through the covers, a straight six off seamer Prerak Mankad had a touch of arrogance.
With skipper Karun Nair (0) and KL Rahul (0) back in the pavilion without troubling the scorers, the crack pair of Agarwal and Ravikumar Samarth (48) added 136 runs for the third wicket in 21.5 overs.
While there was turn on offer, Agarwal didn't look in any discomfort against spinners as he lofted left-armer Dharmendra Jadeja (1/56 in 7 overs) over long-off and extra-cover against the turn.
He hit a deft late cut off Dharmendra but the bowler finally got him when he tried another against the turn shot to hole out at long-off, when he could have got a big hundred by going steady.
Was it difficult to concentrate or motivate for the final, Agarwal replied: "I don't think it was a problem as I can only control what's there in my hand."
The only time he looked a bit stiff was when he was asked if MSK Prasad had spoken to him or not.
"Sorry, I won't comment on this," was his curt response.
When Saurashtra batted, pacer M Prasidh Krishna (3/37 in 7.3 overs) removed Samarth Vyas (10) and pinch hitter Dharmendra (1) in quick succession.
It was Gowtham's off-spin that put brakes on Saurashtra as Pujara dound it difficult get going.
Pujara and Avi Barot (30) added 62 runs for the third wicket before the latter was out. The tide decisively turned in Karnataka's favour when Ravindra Jadeja's indiscreet shot selection -- to slog off-spinner Pavan Deshpande against the turn - brought about his downfall.
"We lost too many wickets at the start and that was the problem," Pujara said after the match.
"The target of 254 was a gettable one. My only advise to the batsmen during middle overs was to play the turning ball cautiously. I firmly believed that in a small ground like Kotla, 100 runs in last 10 overs is chaseable if you have wickets in hand," he said.
Karnataka 253/10 (Mayank Agarwal 90, Pavan Deshpande 49; Kamlesh Makvana 4/32) against Saurashtra 212/10 (Cheteshwar Pujara 94; Krishnappa Gowtham 3/27).
(With PTI Inputs)