Karnataka inch closer to semis

Pandeys century helps hosts to secure crucial first innings lead on day three

Karnataka inch closer to semis

 Manish Pandey drives during his 115 on Saturday. DH PHOTO/ PRASHANTH H GConsequently, three-fourths of the way into the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal, Karnataka have good reason to believe they have one foot in the semifinals of the country’s premier domestic competition for only the second time since their last title triumph in 1999.

 Having seen Karnataka kick on from their overnight 265 for six to 378 and a handy if hardly decisive advantage, Punjab’s only hope of turning the tables lay in scoring quickly enough to give their bowlers adequate time to try and bowl Karnataka out a second time.

 Instead, after a promising start when Sunny Sohal threw caution to the winds, they inexplicably battened down the hatches to finish on 165 for one in 58 overs, an overall lead of 87. They will have to do all the running on Sunday’s final day, for a draw will suit Rahul Dravid’s men just fine.

 Sohal (85 n.o., 220m, 177b, 13x4) hogged the limelight between lunch and stumps, but there was no disputing who the day’s hero was.

There is something about Pandey’s batting – his approach, composure and his unique style – that sets him apart from most of the rest.

Only 20, he seems to understand situations brilliantly, and meet their demands in his own unconventional but supremely effective fashion.

 Pandey will be the first to acknowledge the huge contribution made by R Vinay Kumar, the ultimate team man whose commitment and application are worth emulating.

 It didn’t take long for Punjab to effect the breakthrough, Sunil Joshi being run out in the first over with the second new ball just 17 minutes into the day. Taruwar Kohli’s sweeping direct hit from cover-point left Karnataka gasping at 272 for seven, 29 short of the lead. Without warning, Pandey switched gears.

The new ball sped off his willow faster than it came on, his third hundred of the season – and his first-class career – coming with the last of three boundaries in one Love Ablish over.

Crucial stand

After his 53-run stand with Joshi, Pandey associated himself in another crucial stand, of 46 (42m, 57b) with the phlegmatic Vinay. Emboldened by the confidence with which Vinay handled Ablish, Manpreet Gony and Harmeet Singh, Pandey kept playing his shots. What made it difficult for Pankaj Dharmani to set fields was that the slight right-hander didn’t embrace orthodoxy, but sent the ball where he deemed fit.

 It needed a grubber from Kohli to evict Pandey after a memorable 115 (225m, 147b, 14x4, 2x6) – taking his season’s tally to 668, the second highest in the country – and at 318 for eight, Karnataka were still not out of the woods.

That’s when Vinay came to the party.

A Mithun’s needless run-out didn’t help Karnataka’s cause, but with an obdurate S Aravind for company, Vinay set about swelling the lead.

He did so with great common sense, not wielding the long handle but playing proper cricket shots on his way to a maiden half-century as the last pair put on 47.

 Punjab began breezily in the three overs before lunch, Sohal launching into Vinay and Mithun so that 19 had been accrued. After that, the former champions totally shut shop. 31 overs between lunch and tea produced just 73 runs, Sunil Joshi bowling a super spell of 11-8-10-1, and the last session yielded 73 from 24, this despite Karnataka dropping two more catches and CM Gautam missing a stumping. Plenty of work ahead of Punjab on the morrow if they aspire for a miraculous win.

Score Board

PUNJAB (I Innings): 300 all out in 92.4 overs
KARNATAKA (I Innings, O/n: 265/6): Robin Uthappa c & b Sharma 91 (182m, 118b, 14x4, 1x6), KB Pawan lbw Harmeet 1 (16m, 13b), Ganesh Satish c Kaul b Ablish 29 (87m, 54b, 5x4), Rahul Dravid b Ablish 36 (103m, 72b, 5x4), Manish Pandey lbw Kohli 115 (225m, 147b, 14x4, 2x6), Amit Verma c Kaul b Gony 1 (19m, 13b), CM Gautam c Kaul b Kohli 11 (53m, 41b, 2x4), Sunil Joshi (run out) 15 (82m, 54b, 3x4), R Vinay Kumar (not out) 51 (115m, 94b, 7x4), A Mithun (run out) 3 (10m, 6b), S Aravind lbw Ravi Inder 11 (61m, 34b, 1x4). Extras (LB-11, NB-3) 14. Total (all out, 107.1 overs) 378.

Fall of wickets: 1-11 (Pawan), 2-72 (Satish), 3-146 (Uthappa), 4-170 (Dravid), 5-188 (Verma), 6-217 (Gautam), 7-272 (Joshi), 8-318 (Pandey), 9-331 (Mithun).
Bowling: Love Ablish 32-4-107-2 (nb-2), Harmeet Singh 20-4-78-1, Manpreet Gony 27-8-58-1 (nb-1), Rahul Sharma 19-3-87-1, Taruwar Kohli 9-0-37-2, Ravi Inder Singh 0.1-0-0-1.

PUNJAB (II Innings): Sunny Sohal (batting) 85 (220m, 177b, 13x4), Ravi Inder Singh c Aravind b Joshi 38 (93m, 77b, 5x4), Mayank Sidana (batting) 37 (126m, 97b, 5x4). Extras (B-1, LB-1, NB-3) 5. Total (for 1 wkt, 58 overs) 165.
Fall of wicket: 1-72 (Ravi Inder).

Bowling: R Vinay Kumar 10-0-35-0, Abhimanyu Mithun 10-1-46-0 (nb-2), Sreesanth Aravind 13-1-43-0 (nb-1), Sunil Joshi 16-9-28-1, Amit Verma 9-4-11-0.

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