Karnataka batsmen shine

Cricket Ranji Trophy: Rahul, Gautam score tons as hosts score 308/2 against Vidarbha

For the second time in succession, Karnataka’s batting lived up to its reputation as Vidarbha’s decision to bowl first on a greenish surface boome­ranged in spectacular fashion on the opening day of their Group ‘B’ Ranji Trophy clash here at the Gangotri Glades on Saturday.

Leading Karnataka’s robust charge were the experienced CM Gautam and the fast-improving KL Rahul, whose near flawless century efforts carried the hosts to a command 308 for two at close on an extended opening day which began 30 minutes behind schedule due to heavy dew on the field.

Given the appearance of the wicket, there was little doubt that the captain winning the toss will have little hesitation in opting to bowl first. In fact both sides had packed three front-line pacemen in their ranks with Karnataka having the extra back-up of Stuart Binny.

Vidarbha skipper Sairaj Bahutule, who introduced himself into the attack in the last over before lunch (27th to be precise), backed his pace trio of Sandip Singh, Shrikant Wagh and Ravi Thakur to exploit any early assistance for the bowlers in the pitch but a combination of unimaginative bowling and brilliant batting nullified that advantage.

The dismissal of opener Robin Uthappa (24) and Ganesh Satish (0) by the hard-working Sandip briefly appeared to have justified Bahutule’s decision but Rahul (145 batting, 269b, 15x4) and Gautam (129 batting, 310m, 215b, 11x4), who was promoted up the order to make most of his good form, scripted an unbroken 256-run alliance for the third wicket to throw the visitors’ plans out of the window.

Uthappa looked fluent during his brief stay in the middle while Ganesh picked up another failure which should be a cause for concern for the talented right-hander. There were, however, no major worries for Rahul and Gautam, either from the bowlers or from the pitch.

The bounce remained true throughout the day but once the new ball was seen off, the right-handed duo made batting look a lot easier than it actually was. There were odd edges falling just short of close-in fielders and there was an occasional miscued sweep or pull, but when you play as long as the two did you need the rub of the green to go your way.

The 20-year-old Rahul, playing only in his second match of the season, followed up his half-century against Delhi in the previous match with his maiden first-class ton that was laced with the confidence of a seasoned campaigner. Standing tall at the crease, the elegant batsman began with a crisp cover drive and as the innings grew, he employed pull and sweep to good effect.

The presence of a confident Gautam at the other end was godsent for the rookie player. The wicketkeeper-batsman, in the form of his career, took little time to settle down that eased the pressure on the youngster which had built up following the two dismissals in quick succession. Though new to the crease, Gautam quickly sized up the situation and guided the youngster through the ‘tough’ phase.

Bahutule, who used as many as nine bowlers on the day, tried every trick that he has gained in his long career but on the day it simply didn’t work against two determined batsmen. The Vidarbha captain would obviously have been disappointed with his quick bowlers who didn’t quite make most of the helpful conditions on offer.


KARNATAKA (I Innings): Robin Uthappa b Sandip Singh 24 (54m, 42b, 3x4), KL Rahul (batting) 145 (390m, 269b, 15x4), Ganesh Satish c Ubarhande b Sandip Singh 0 (24m, 14b), CM Gautam (batting) 129 (310m, 215b, 11x4). Extras (B-1, LB-4, W-5) 10. Total (for 2 wkts, 90 overs) 308.
Fall of wickets: 1-44 (Uthappa), 2-52 (Ganesh).

Bowling: Sandip Singh 20-6-45-2 (w-5), Shrikant Wagh 19-0-60-0, Ravi Thakur 17-3-71-0, Faiz Fazal 2-0-13-0, Sairaj Bahutule 14-0-59-0, Gaurav Upadhyaya 14-1-44-0, Hemang Badani 2-0-7-0, Apoorva Wankhade 1-0-3-0, Shalabh Srivastava 1-0-1-0.

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