Formidable Karnataka hold distinct advantage

Himachal hope to make the most of familiar conditions

Karnataka are certainly the better team man to man, but Himachal have shown they can be a force to reckon with at home, as evidenced by them taking the first-innings lead against Punjab. However, there are certain factors that will give the visitors an undeniable edge.

Despite some anxious moments against Haryana and Orissa, Karnataka’s batting still offers a picture of solidity and they have succeeded in unearthing a rescuer each time they fell into a crisis. The form of Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, KB Pawan and KL Rahul at various stages of the last three matches has been encouraging.

Karnataka were dealt a blow when CM Gautam, who made a match-winning hundred against Orissa, was ruled out with a sore knee suffered wheen he collided with Debasish Mohanty.

All-rounder Stuart Binny will replace Gautam in the eleven while Uthappa will perform the wicketkeeper’s role.

Coach Sanath Kumar said Binny’s inclusion would give the team an extra edge. “Stuart gives us the option of an extra seamer. Looking at the wicket, it will assist the new-ball bowlers and Stuart, with his kind of bowling, should be an advantage for us,” Sanath said.

It will be a big comforting factor for the Karnataka camp to see Abhimanyu Mithun returning to wicket-taking ways. The pacer has been bowling brilliantly without ample returns but an effort performance against Orissa saw him grab four wickets, paving the way for Karnataka’s innings win in Bangalore.

Mysore lad Aditya B Sagar too was vastly impressive on debut, taking wickets at critical junctures to hamper Orissa’s progress. Left-arm pacer S Arvind too proved a handful in the last match when he got some assistance from the pitch. Both Sagar and Arvind were successful in moving the ball both ways and were also able to generate appreciable bounce.

In that context, the greenish tinge on the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association stadium here will please the Karnataka pace bowlers to a great extent. “This is one time when it won’t matter if you bat first or second. The wicket will assist seamers all through the four days and our batsmen need to apply themselves so that we bat just once,” Karnataka skipper Ganesh Satish said.

Himachal will be eyeing a huge upset in familiar conditions. But their batting, which shone in patches in previous games, will have to deliver consistently against a top-quality attack to fulfill that dream. Himachal skipper Paras Dogra was fully aware of the task ahead.

“Our batsmen have to push more. Our bowling has been good. But we need big scores from our batsmen. It has been three games gone and we do have a century from one batsman each. What we need now is a long innings and consistency from our batsmen,” Dogra said. “The batsmen have at times been too casual, got out to bad shots or have not been pushing that extra yard to play long innings.”

Comments (+)