Karnataka set to go for the kill

Uttar Pradesh lose an early wicket in pursuit of a victory target of 438


Their designs of forcing Uttar Pradesh to follow on thwarted by a combination of over-keen bowling and feisty lower-order resistance at the Bhamashah Cricket stadium on Thursday, Karnataka flexed their batting muscles in some style before Rahul Dravid applied the closure.

Then, their tormentor of the first innings, A Mithun, produced a screaming beauty to pluck out Tanmay Srivatsava’s off-stump so that by close, Uttar Pradesh had their backs to the wall, needing to bat out 90 overs to secure a draw.
On a surface increasingly playing up and down, Mohammad Kaif’s men will have to bat out of their skins to deny Karnataka the nine wickets they need for an outright victory. At 30 for one chasing 438, Uttar Pradesh’s chances of knocking off 408 runs on the last day appear miniscule, even if a run-drenched penultimate day yielded 406 in just under 85 overs.

Beginning the day on 214 for eight and needing 42 more to avoid the follow on, Uttar Pradesh made the most of R Vinay Kumar and Mithun’s anxiety to mop up the tail by cashing in on loose offerings and blazing away. Amir Khan deservedly completed his half-century and put on 91 (93m, 151b) for the ninth wicket with Praveen Gupta before Mithun – who else?! – had him smartly caught at second slip by B Akhil for his sixth wicket.

Gupta continued to flay the two quicks, reaching his own 50, before more smart work from Akhil terminated Karnataka’s agony as UP were bowled out for 279, a deficit of 126 even though 11.5 overs on Thursday brought them 65 runs.
Karnataka’s second-innings effort of 311 for five declared was particularly pleasing from the point of view of every top-order batsman spending adequate time in the middle against an honest pace bowling attack spearheaded by Rudra Pratap Singh. Robin Uthappa was in the elements from the off, entertaining another big crowd with sparkling strokeplay, while KB Pawan batted as is his wont, with careful circumspection but in complete control.

The duo put on 95 (131m, 164b) before Uthappa’s adventurism resulted in a catch in the deep and brought out Amit Verma, who impressed in his own little stay with some pleasing strokes.

Without ever slipping into overdrive, Karnataka were scoring at nearly four an over when Pawan was cleaned up by RP Singh. That triggered a brutal avalanche of runs under which Uttar Pradesh lay completely buried, Kaif clueless as Manish Pandey, Akhil and Dravid latched on to Chawla and left-arm spinner Gupta with disdain.
Pandey began the demolition job with three sixes, Akhil joined the party with two of his own and Dravid rounded off the entertainment with a six off the last ball of the Karnataka innings that took him to his half-century.
A whopping 119 runs had come off the last 73 deliveries, and UP were almost happy at the declaration.

Their relief was short-lived when Mithun beat Tanmay for pace and sent his off-stump cartwheeling.

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