Karnataka seize initiative

Uthappa, Agarwal peg Tamil Nadu back after Arvind's fine show

Karnataka seize initiative

Robin Uthappa and Mayank Agarwal fused pragmatism and adventure splendidly as Karnataka gained valuable strides over Tamil Nadu.

Even the suggestion of such a scenario would have been considered deranged on Tuesday morning. But by the time a largely muggy third day ended at the M Chinnaswamy stadium, Karnataka had steamed well ahead of their opponents in their Ranji Trophy tie. They were 247 for four at close, ahead by 263 runs.

Karnataka bowlers offered the first hint of a change in the course of the match, nipping out Tamil Nadu’s remaining five wickets for just 34 runs to hand their team a 16-run lead. On a rather comfortable 240 for five overnight, the visitors were bundled out for 274.

But the job was only half done. Karnataka needed some brisk runs to pile further pressure on Tamil Nadu. Of course, Karnataka could have bided their time having already sealed three points for taking the innings lead. But they travelled a more intent-filled route.

In the first innings, both Uthappa and Agarwal were eager to blast everything in front of them, losing their wickets cheaply in the process. But there was more caution in their approach this time, without squandering the scoring opportunities.

In many ways, Uthappa (76) and Agarwal (80) are batsmen of similar traits, on perennial prowl for runs. Even their stance oozes aggression – bat high in the air and standing slightly crouched at the crease like a tiger ready to pounce on its prey. They were smart in picking their targets too.

L Balaji and M Mohammad were dealt with respect. J Kaushik, Tamil Nadu’s most impressive bowler of the first innings, was worked around efficiently, and they didn’t give a toss to the three spinners – Malolan Rangarajan, Baba Indrajith and Baba Aparajith.

Uthappa took the initiative, blunting the Tamil Nadu attack with some crisp shots on either side of the wicket. Once he settled down, Agarwal too tore into the visitors’ attack, a brilliantly executed straight drive off Kaushik revealed his confidence. Both the batsmen went past the fifty-run mark in blazing manner.

Uthappa pulled Indrajith to the fence, while Agarwal was even more audacious, smacking Rangarajan for a four and a six off successive deliveries. They raised 110 runs in 28 overs in the second session to give Karnataka a definite upper hand.

It then seemed just a matter of time before they reached the three-figure mark. But a rather casual flick off Rangarajan ended Uthappa’s stay in the middle. The disappointment was palpable on his face as he took reluctant steps towards the hut.

Agarwal too didn’t stay long. A mix-up with Kunal Kapoor cut short his 183-minute knock. Kunal also returned soon as Kaushik moved one away from him, and a slash away from the body ended in the hands of Aparajith at first slip.

The three quick wickets saw Karnataka slipping to 174 for three, and a 190-run lead was not precisely a comfortable position. But Karun Nair and Manish Pandey realised 59 runs off 83 balls for the fourth wicket to take the home side to a position of strength.

The hard-working Mohamamad castled Karun late in the final session but that had little effect on the match’s standing.

Earlier, Karnataka bowlers, especially S Arvind (4/52), found their mojo in the morning. They were without H S Sharath, nursing a niggle on the left knee but it did not matter.

Tamil Nadu’s skipper R Prasanna’s run out gave them a small opening, and they smashed through it emphatically to bag the remaining four wickets for 19 runs, giving their team a slender first innings lead.

The hosts’ batsmen built on it substantially. Another hour of positive batting on the final day would transform the lead into a potentially match-winning one. With Sharath expected to return, will Karnataka bowlers be able to grab the opportunity on a pitch that still has some leanings for the bowlers?
DH News Service

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