Ganesh, Rahul put Karnataka in command

Maharashtra bundled out for 305

Ganesh, Rahul put Karnataka in command

It’s not quite been the horses-for-courses policy but the changes the Karnataka team management has rung in through the season have paid handsome results. And the inclusion of Ganesh Satish and S Arvind -- both of whom had to warm the benches for considerable period this season – is already turning out to be the most inspirational of their moves.

At close on the second day of the Ranji Trophy final, Karnataka not only neutralised the minor advantage that Maharashtra had gained on the opening day but also established full control over the match as they reached 230 without losing a wicket.

In the morning, Karnataka bowlers had done an excellent job of restricting their rivals to 305 all out here at the Rajiv Gandhi international cricket stadium on Thursday.
Comeback kid Ganesh Satish (117 batting, 280m, 207b, 16x4) and an unwell KL Rahul (94 batting, 310m, 189b, 9x4, 1x6) had put on a massive 216 runs between them after Robin Uthappa retired hurt owing to an elbow injury he sustained off Samad Fallah’s final delivery of the fifth over. Karnataka now trail Maharashtra by 75 runs and their aim obviously will be to bat Maharashtra out of the contest.

Overnight 272 for five, Maharashtra would have backed themselves to build substantially on their first day’s total with two set batsmen – Ankit Bawne (89, 173b, 10x4) and Sangram Atitkar (50, 97b, 8x4) -- at the crease. A Mithun (3/49), however, produced the ball of the match yet to dismiss Bawne for his overnight score off the first ball he played in the morning. Even as Bawne moved across and front to block, the ball snaked in to knock off his middle stump. This set the stage for Karnataka to run through Maharashtra’s middle and late order.

Brilliant catch

Arvind (3/65) accounted for Shrikant Mundhe when Manish Pandey dived full length from a squarish first slip to nail a brilliant catch. In the next over, the left-arm seamer sent back Atitkar while skipper R Vinay Kumar polished off the remaining two as Maharashtra managed just 33 runs while losing five wickets in a little over an hour in the first session. 

Karnataka’s innings began on a slightly discouraging note when Uthappa while trying to pad up a Fallah delivery hurt his left elbow. He received immediate treatment but eventually had to walk off the field. This was followed by some delightful batting by the two classy right-handers. Their innings weren’t quite blemishless – as many as five catches were grassed off the two – but what mattered most was the way they made most of their lives.

Rahul was let off before he got off the mark, though a difficult one, while Ganesh received a reprieve when he was on six but that shouldn’t take anything away from their association that was dotted with some exquisite stroke play. Ganesh, who had been left out for previous four games, looked a bit uncertain, edging and nudging in the early part of his innings while Rahul was as solid as he has ever been this season.

Once Ganesh got his eye in, though, he outscored his in-form partner, surging to his sixth first-class ton and setting off for an exaggerated celebration. He is not done yet and this may just turn out to be the most important knock of his career. While there were obviously a lot of emotions within him, Ganesh did well to keep them in check after walking in to bat in a pressure-cooker situation.

Rahul, popping pills through his innings to beat high temperatures, showed great physical stamina and mental toughness to be on the cusp of his third century of the season. Though he enjoyed a couple of ‘lives,’ he was largely in control of the Maharashtra attack that lacked both in imagination and intensity.

The pitch admittedly had little to offer for the bowlers but even so, it was an ineffective bowling. Their problems were further compounded by the butter-fingered fielders. 

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