Karnataka eye innings victory

Fiery Mithun wrecks hosts top-order, Bawane holds hope for Maharashtra


The Karnataka pace bowler and Maharashtra batsman performed their respective jobs to perfection to enliven a day that seemed incapable of deviating from a set path.

The third-day strip at Pune Club did not offer the kind of help a pace bowler would have hoped for, but Mithun managed to procure considerable pace, disconcerting bounce and movement to rattle Maharashtra and reduce them to 39 for four in just under an hour midway through the morning session of the Ranji Trophy Super League tie.

But the home side did well to regroup and post 254 for five at close on the penultimate day, riding on Bawane’s maiden Ranji Trophy hundred. Earlier, Karnataka had declared their innings closed at 553 for four after Amit Verma completed his 150 for a massive innings lead of 448 runs.

Back to one of the protagonists, Mithun’s striking powers were already a storied lot, but a sunny Thursday afternoon revealed another face of his bowling, willingness to bend his back even on a not-so-helpful pitch in search of wickets.  The paceman, who cranked up good pace, might have been itching to get to the middle to perform his favorite act, destroying the opposition.

Mithun gave the first indications of an extraordinary afternoon when he picked up two wickets in two balls in his second over. Rohan Bhosale could not resist the temptation of going after Mithun’s outswinger, managing only an edge to KB Pawan at third slip.
The next delivery underlined the hype surrounding Mithun. The ball did not carry red-hot pace but moved just enough to find the narrow space between Amay Shrikhande’s bat and pads to knock the bails off their perch.

If the way he secured those two wickets were an advertisement of Mithun’s ability to move the ball in the air and off the pitch, the ball with which he dismissed Kedar Jadhav for his third wicket had a genuine paceman’s signature on it.
Pitched a little behind the good length spot, the ball reached Jadhav at a furious pace just as the batsman committed himself to a pull. The Maharashtra batting mainstay had no other choice but to fend the ball away to escape from getting hit, and Ganesh Satish completed the formalities at forward short-leg. A thrilling exhibition of quality fast bowling!

R Vinay Kumar soon dismissed Harshad Khadiwale and at 39 for four Maharashtra were staring at catastrophe. But Bawane and Rohit Motwani, a few days shy of his 18th birthday, added 188 runs for a gritty fifth-wicket alliance to prolong Maharashtra’s fight for survival.

With the pitch easing out considerably, the young duo played confidently and was never hesitant to put the loose balls away, which were on offer aplenty, especially in the post-tea session. Karnataka bowlers never seemed to make an impression upon the two, and Motwani’s indiscretion ended the alliance.

Just as the curtains came down on the day, Motwani, perhaps in his eagerness to ward away Sunil Joshi, played a forward push only to see Pawan snaffle a sitter. The wicket, Joshi’s 437th in Ranji Trophy, put the veteran left-arm bowler on par with BS Chandrasekhar at the top of Ranji wicket-takers’ list for Karnataka.

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