In an afternoon of fluctuating fortunes, Karnataka cruised towards triumph, careened near defeat and finally found its poise to snatch a one-wicket victory over Andhra with two deliveries to spare.

The win helped the defending champion swell its tally to 20 points and retain the K.S. Subbaiah Pillai Trophy South Zone limited-over tournament at the Margao Cricket Club Ground here on Wednesday.

Once last-man K.P. Appanna — after two wild swipes — punched a four off Gyaneswara Rao, Karnataka scored 229 for nine in 49.4 overs while pursuing Andhra’s 228.

The chase should not have reached its tipping point in the final over as, at one stage, Karnataka was coasting at 147 for one with Robin Uthappa (50) having flourished with a garland of fours on the off-side and K.L. Rahul (75) still going strong in another innings of patience and placement.

However, once Stuart Binny and Manish Pandey perished, the think-tank’s decision to promote Abhimanyu Mithun to number six, almost derailed the team.

Mithun lost his timber to left-arm spinner B. Sudhakar (three for 49) and Karnataka gaped nervously at 196 for five in 38.4 overs.

Still, all was not lost as at the crease was C.M. Gautam who, along with regular skipper R. Vinay Kumar, had joined the squad late on Tuesday night. Inexplicably, Gautam found the fielder on the square-leg fence, Vinay was castled and Karun Nair and Ryan Ninan fell to poor shots.

It boiled down to five off six balls when Gyaneswara Rao trundled in.

Whispered prayers

Rajoo Bhatkal (13 n.o.), who replaced H.S. Sharath in the eleven, hit a single off the first ball and then Appanna forced everyone to whisper their prayers before Vinay’s men exulted.

“I wanted Mithun to get his singles instead of going for the big hit that he did. The plan was to surprise Andhra but it did not work. Thankfully, we won,” said Karnataka’s batting coach J. Arun Kumar.

Earlier, skipper A.G. Pradeep’s 55 guided the Andhra innings while Karnataka, strengthened by the return of Vinay (four for 38), kept it tight though two catches were dropped with Bhatkal and Ninan being the guilty fielders.

In other matches, Kerala defeated Goa by six wickets and secured the second spot while Tamil Nadu rode on captain Dinesh Karthik’s 119 (119b, 11x4, 1x6) to register a 26-run victory over Hyderabad.

Karnataka and Kerala qualified for the Vijay Hazare Trophy all-India limited-over tournament at Visakhapatnam from February 26.

Final positions: 1. Karnataka: 20 pts.; 2. Kerala: 17; 3. Andhra: 13; 4. Tamil Nadu: 9; 5. Hyderabad: 3; 6. Goa: -2.

The scores: Andhra 228 in 48 overs (A.G. Pradeep 55, B. Sumanth 39, Amol Muzumdar 39, Vinay Kumar four for 38, Abhimanyu Mithun three for 42) lost to Karnataka 229 for nine in 49.4 overs (K.L. Rahul 75, Robin Uthappa 50, Stuart Binny 25, B. Sudhakar three for 49). Karnataka (4 pts.), Andhra (0).

Goa 219 in 49.5 overs (Sagun Kamat 71, Robin Ronald D’Souza 50, Manvinder Bisla 30, Prasanth Parameswaran three for 34) lost to Kerala 223 for four in 45.3 overs (Rohan Prem 82 n.o., Sanju Viswanath 58, K.J. Rakesh 36). Kerala (4), Goa (0).

Tamil Nadu 262 for nine in 50 overs (Dinesh Karthik 119, Baba Aparajith 51, Ashish Reddy four for 56, C.V. Milind three for 48) bt Hyderabad 236 in 48.2 overs (Sandeep Rajan 52, K. Sumanth 47, Ravi Teja 43, B. Sandeep 42, P. Amarnath three for 49). Tamil Nadu (4), Hyderabad (0).

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