Karnataka share day's honours with Saurashtra

Hosts manage 272/5 on opening day

Contrary to what the Karnataka camp had read after taking a good long look at the pitch a day earlier, the strip at the University of Saurashtra campus stood the test and made for a pleasant day of cricket.

There were small segments of play where the ‘ underprepared’ pitch posed a threat but those were few and far between as the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal tie between Karnataka and Saurashtra entertained the small crowd. Opting to bat, the hosts took on the new pitch and came out on top – even if only marginally -- as they notched up 272 for five in 92 overs on a windy Sunday.

While batting and bowling varied between good and mediocre, there was a constant that shone through three sessions.

KL Rahul bowled a couple of overs and his off-breaks were taken apart with absolute disregard but he gave the hosts no such opportunity to dismiss him like that when he was fielding. Chances came by rarely as Saurashtra’s batsmen were more than content to keep the ball under their noses but when they did show up, Rahul was there.

The 20-year-old kick started his run when he took a fairly simple but crucial catch when Cheteshwar Pujara (37, 60m, 49b, 7x4) danced down the track and inside-edged K Gowtham straight to him positioned at backward short-leg to send the India number three away.

Following the loss of Pujara, skipper Jaydev Shah (23) and Sitanshu Kotak (46, 194m, 132b, 5x4) looked well set and added 45 runs before the left-handed Jaydev drove a full and wide delivery from HS Sharath. The ball hurried off his outside edge, and even though Rahul looked out of position for a moment, he regrouped and got his hands behind the ball at wide gully.

The score card read 113 for three at lunch and though it seemed like a sticky situation, Saurashtra looked unperturbed as Sheldon Jackson joined Kotak.

Even though Jackson (83, 161m, 128b, 12x4, 1x6) had only just arrived, he looked a lot more composed at the crease in comparison to his fidgety partner. Kotak shuffled incessantly and missed the ball on several occasions but he stayed true to the role and stuck it out for nearly the entire opening session before falling while doing what exactly was not required of him.

The left-hander, visibly annoyed with HS Sharath’s persistence with the short-pitched stuff, chased a full delivery in the 48th over and edged it to Rahul at slip. Though the ball gathered speed and flew to his left, Rahul barely looked troubled. In one clean motion, he rose up from his crouch and let the ball settle into his palm to send his team-mates into delirium.

While the two of the first three catches were something Rahul, would be especially delighted with, his fourth catch summed up the day.

Rahul, who fielded within the circle till then, was moved to mid-off by skipper Stuart Binny. With KP Appanna bowling from around the wicket to the right-handed Jackson, Binny placed six fielders on the leg side and covered the off side with Rahul, Amit Verma and Gowtham. Jackson took the bait and mistimed an attempt to go inside-out. The 26-year-old hit high and wide of Rahul, and the fielder bolted towards extra cover region as the ball spiralled downwards. Gusts of wind threw him off the course but just when the ball threatened to land safely, he dived full-stretch and got his hand under the ball in the nick of time to bring an end to Jackson’s 93-run association with Aarpit Vasavada (49 batting, 169m, 137b, 8x4).

From there on, Rahul didn’t have much role as Vasavada and Chirag Jani (13) offered no more chances. But Rahul had done enough by then to give Karnataka a grip on things.

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