Karnataka face tough task on final day

Parvinder slams century, Bhuvneshwar hits 91 as Uttar Pradesh take 445-run lead against visitors

Having tormented Karnataka with the ball, Bhuvneshwar Kumar troubled the visitors with the bat as well to help Uttar Pradesh take complete control of their Group B Ranji Trophy encounter here at the Victoria Park ground on Monday.

Beginning the penultimate day with a 157-run cushion, the hosts lost their first-innings centurion Mohd Kaif early in the day, briefly raising Karnataka’s hopes of a comeback. However, Kaif’s overnight partner Bhuvneshwar gave a further indication of his growing batting prowess, constructing a composed 91 (253b, 13x4) during his six-hour stay.

Hade be maintained the same calm approach, Bhuvneshwar could easily have notched up his second first-class ton following his epic knock against North Zone in the Duleep Trophy only last month. Instead the 21-year-old went into a complete shell in the post-tea session as he consumed 59 balls to collect his last 12 runs and getting stumped while trying to accelerate. Parvinder Singh (143 batting, 255b, 19x4) only added to Karnataka’s woes, producing his eighth first-class century on a pitch that was supposed to be an ally of pace bowlers.

Thanks to a marathon 230-run association between Bhuvneshwar and Parvinder for the fifth wicket, UP, overnight 55/3, finished the day at an impressive 343 for five to all but shut Karnataka out of the match. Despite enjoying over 400-run lead with a decent amount of play left in the final session, UP continued to bat the whole day in a bid to cut all escape routes for Karnataka. Going into Tuesday’s final day, the home team enjoys a whopping 445-run lead which is a near impossible target to scale down even if Karnataka get to bat an entire day.

“Our aim was to ensure complete safety for ourselves,” said former India paceman and UP coach Venkatesh Prasad. “We know what they (Karnataka batsmen) are capable of and we know what they did in the last match (against Tamil Nadu). They scored 300 runs on the final day and if we had given them about 10 overs today, and whole day tomorrow, anything could have happened because now the pitch is really good to bat on.
We have a big lead now and we can go all out tomorrow to get full points,” he explained.
On a surface where 23 wickets fell on the first two days, only two batsmen could be dismissed on the third day. While the green cover was still there, it held no tricks on the day. There was hardly any movement for the bowlers either in the air or off the deck and the batsmen looked far more assured. And at some stages even audacious.

H S Sharath, with a five-wicket haul in the first innings, bowled at good pace and the odd ball did manage to beat the batsmen. His new-ball partner Ronit More was more probing, inducing a few edges but they either fell short or stayed just out of fielders’ reach. The spin duo of KP Appanna and K Gowtham made little impact on Bhuvneshwar and Parvinder, who picked up boundaries off them at will while taking advantage of an attacking field in the first session during which the two right-handers added 121 runs in 27 overs.

Things slowed down a bit in the post-lunch period but there was no sight of a wicket for Karnataka. Skipper Stuart Binny made several changes in bowling and set different fields but without much reward on a ‘well-settled’ pitch. Such were their frustration levels that they even employed a negative line for a brief while.

While a victory appears out of Karnataka’s reach at the moment, they can still hope to salvage a point by drawing the match. They did so against Tamil Nadu while eking out first-innings lead and there’s no reason why they can’t this time.

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