Appanna rattles Rajasthan

However, looking at how things transpired on the day, the former champions had every reason to leave the field a bit unsatisfied on the penultimate day of their four-day Group ‘A’ Ranji Super League match against Rajasthan here at the Field Club Ground on Saturday.

Having enforced the follow-on after taking a massive 368-run lead, Karnataka could have brightened their chances of an innings victory had they managed to hold on to at least one of the three offers, all eminently catchable, that came their way in Rajasthan’s second essay. A victory for Karnataka still remains in the realms of possibility, but the defending champions, still trailing by 317 runs, took a determined step towards pulling off a difficult draw finishing an extended day at 51 with both their openers – a fortuitous Vaibhav Deshpandey and Vineet Saxena -- intact.

Left-arm spinner KP Appanna (4/35), playing his first Ranji match in over two years, returned with a bang claiming four wickets while an impressive Abhimanyu Mithun (3/66) picked up three important wickets as Karnataka dismissed Rajasthan, overnight 49/2, for 255 at the stroke of tea, and, not surprisingly, asked the hosts to follow-on.

Sloppy fielding
Deshpandey would have been back in the pavilion had Amit Verma, diving to his wrong side, pouched the edge off Mithun with the batsman yet to open his account. The southpaw’s luck and Mithun’s misfortune continued when Manish Pandey allowed the ball to die in front of him. Deshpandey was on 14 then. The batsman had moved on to 22 when he poked one to Robin Uthappa at first slip only for the fielder to grass the  simplest of all three catches. His hard luck apart, Mithun was easily the pick of Karnataka pacemen, generating high pace and disconcerting bounce.

As much as it was frustrating for Karnataka to see the chances go abegging in the final session of the day, their disciplined effort with the ball paid them handsome dividends in the first two sessions. Given that it remained pretty much a batsman-friendly surface, the visiting attack did exceptionally well to bowl out the opposition for a sub-300 total. The mammoth first-innings total allowed Karnataka to keep an attacking field and benefit greatly for the strategy, even though there were occasions when they leaked some boundaries. Given the hot and humid conditions, Vinay also did well in using all his bowlers in short bursts.

Mithun set the tone for Karnataka’s dominance, sending back overnight batsman Saxena early in the day. Ashok Menaria and Rashmi Ranjan Parida put up some resistance before left-arm paceman S Arvind cleaned up the latter. An aggressive Menaria (57, 81b, 9x4) threw his wicket       away when he checked his attempted heave off a well-flighted delivery from Appanna, giving a simple catch to Vinay at mid-off. The returning Vinay accounted for Madhur Khatri soon to leave Rajasthan tottering at 146 for six. It was no coincidence that the replaced ball in the 31st over moved appreciably both ways.
Karnataka at this stage appeared primed to run through the Rajasthan line-up, but Robin Bist (47) and Rohit Jhalani (45) thwarted their designs with a counter-attacking partnership. Just when shoulders seemed to be dropping a bit, Appanna delivered two back-to-back blows. A hat-trick didn’t materialise but the youngster was more than happy to have signed off with last-man Pankaj Singh’s scalp. The Kodava lad was unafraid to flight the ball but by and large stayed away from experimenting too much. On a track where there wasn’t much turn, his discipline fetched him impressive returns.

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