Vinay's burst wrecks Punjab

Hosts regain some of the lost ground, taking two Karnataka wickets

Vinay's burst wrecks Punjab

In his near-decade stint with the State squad, R Vinay Kumar has bowled many a memorable spell. His effort on Sunday afternoon, however, has to be among one of his more special ones for its sheer timing and the circumstances it came in.

Battling severe back spasm that had forced him off the field only third over into the day’s play, the Karnataka skipper returned to produce a sensational burst (5/27) that restricted Punjab to 270 all out from a strong 223 for three after the hosts were asked to bat first on what promised to be a pace-friendly surface. At close on the second day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal, Punjab had regained some of their lost ground, reducing the visitors to 39 for two here at the PCA Stadium. Showing extreme caution, Robin Uthappa (25 batting) and Manish Pandey (8 batting) were holding fort for Karnataka on an extended day, still trailing by 231 runs.

In stark contrast to Saturday’s chilly and wet weather that had washed out the opening day’s play without a ball being bowled, Sunday remained refreshingly bright and warm as the play resumed on time. With their pacers in prime form, Karnataka opted to make the most of the ‘spicy’ wicket only to realise there was not much assistance for the bowlers. What added to their woes was the non-availability of Vinay, who walked off the field after bowling just 1.1 overs, and the waywardness of Ronit More.

With nobody to sustain the pressure created by A Mithun, who was easily the best bowler on scene but unlucky not to get any success, Punjab openers Manan Vohra (51, 50b, 8x4, 1x6) and Jiwanjot Singh (74, 121b, 12x4) collected runs at a fast clip. Vohra was the dominant of the two, racing to his 50 in just 48 balls. Jiwanjot, who survived a strong appeal for LBW off Pandey on 15, played the ideal foil as the partnership grew in strength. The young duo played some delightful drives and cuts in a busy association.
  
More (1/76 in 14.5 overs) and leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal (3/92 in 15 overs) bore the brunt of the openers’ aggressive intent while Mithun kept toiling without any complaint in the absence of Vinay. More did provide the first breakthrough, enticing an outside edge off Vohra behind the wicket but Jiwanjot held firm. Shreyas, whose rhythm appeared to have been disturbed after the Punjab openers went after him right from the start, managed to prise out an ambitious Jiwanjot and Taruwar Kohli that gave Karnataka some breathing space.

Kohli found the cover fielder off a harmless delivery while Jiwanjot played Shreyas on to stumps after having hit the bowler for three fours in four balls. Shreyas showed the big heart and was willing to cop the punishment but he could have done by avoiding bowling too many boundary balls. Yuvraj Singh (42, 56b, 4x4, 2x6) looked set to unleash a special one until his slog off a fulltoss from Amit Verma, who replaced Abrar Kazi in the side, failed to clear Shreyas in the deep.

This set the stage for Vinay to run riot when he came back. He appeared gingerly and bowled from a short run-up with the seam up but still he was effective. The deceptive variations and clever field settings returned him his 13th first-class five-wicket haul in an impressive spell of 6.5-0-26-5. The 29-year-old seemed to have benefitted from having observed the conditions from the sidelines and bowled in the right areas to make the ball talk. The reverse-swing too aided his effort.

In control of the proceedings till Vinay resumed his bowling in the 53rd over, Punjab imploded in spectacular fashion as they lost six wickets while adding just 16 runs. Last man Jaskaran Singh used the long handle to help the home team achieve a respectable total.

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