Pandey props up Karnataka

Pandey props up Karnataka

Cricket: Ranji Trophy: Hosts hopes rest on Dravid as they reach 255 for four on first day

Pandey props up Karnataka

Power and poise: Manish Pandey cracks a boundary on Sunday. DH photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

On a characteristically slow, low surface at the Chinnaswamy stadium, Pandey’s brilliance and Rahul Dravid’s watchfulness appeared to have steadied the ship after Rudra Pratap Singh’s twin strikes in one over returned Uttar Pradesh back into the game in the post-lunch session when Pandey (66) fell to the second new ball.

What could have been a most satisfying day for the hosts was thus significantly downgraded as Karnataka finished Sunday on 255 for four, slow progress undoubtedly but necessitated by a pitch that was by no means a stroke-maker’s ally.

Only Pandey of all batsmen on view seemed to have the track’s measure. Not for the first time this season, he walked into a mini-crisis; again, not for the first time, he batted on unflustered, untouched by whatever pressure there might have been in the company of his skipper, who won what could yet be a crucial toss.

The entire Karnataka top-order got off to starts but no one kicked on. Now, the onus is on Dravid (37 batting) to make sure his three-pronged pace attack – Karnataka kept faith in S Arvind – and Sunil Joshi’s left-arm spin have enough runs to attack with.

Barring Rudra Pratap, outstanding during an extended mid-afternoon spell of 8-1-15-2, there was neither bite nor penetration in the Uttar Pradesh attack. There weren’t any freebies, but there was no sustained pressure either apart from a brief passage of play when KB Pawan and Ganesh Satish departed within five deliveries of each other.

Robin Uthappa began in blazing fashion, repeatedly walking across his stumps and playing Rudra Pratap in particular through the on-side with style and effect. Having warmed up with a punch off the hips through mid-wicket off the first ball of the match, Uthappa continued to pepper the leg-side boundary even as Pawan was content to play himself in when Mohammad Kaif turned to Praveen Gupta.

An ill-advised lap-sweep in the left-arm spinner’s second over had Uthappa palpably in front, but Pawan and Satish were untroubled during their 95-run (132m, 239b) second-wicket alliance. Like Uthappa, Satish tended to favour the on-side while Pawan drove sublimely down the ground to put Karnataka in the driver’s seat as Praveen Kumar failed to make an impact and Bhuvneshwar Kumar was even less of a threat.

Leggie Piyush Chawla bottled one end up during a 22-over spell during which he conceded just 41, but it was left to Rudra Pratap to provide the spark of inspiration UP so badly needed. First, the left-arm paceman caught Pawan’s edge with the angle, then produced a peach from round the stumps that straightened and drew Satish into another edge, both neatly pouched by Amir Khan.

Pandey survived a huge leg before shout off Rudra Pratap, but put his head down and stabilised the innings alongside Dravid. The duo had added 273 in Meerut to haul Karnataka out of trouble at 27 for three, but without putting on as many, they again involved themselves in another crucial stand.

Dravid was the bedrock, the immovable object to Pandey’s irresistible force. The former Indian captain played some attractive strokes of his own, but pulled back as his junior partner exploded once he had got his eye in. The slowness of the track hardly impacted his timing, the stand-out shot a wonderful cover-drive off a Parvinder Singh slower delivery when he held his stroke and then hit through the line.

Already worth 108 (145m, 217b) and looking good for more, the fourth-wicket association ended when Pandey flashed loosely at a wide Praveen delivery in the penultimate over and put Kaif at second slip in business. The initiative somewhat lost, but then again, Pandey had played a big role in snatching the initiative in the first place!

KARNATAKA (I Innings): Robin Uthappa lbw Gupta 32 (69m, 51b, 5x4), KB Pawan c Amir b RP Singh 52 (202m, 167b, 7x4), Ganesh Satish c Amir b RP Singh 49 (137m, 121b, 5x4), Rahul Dravid (batting) 37 (160m, 115b, 5x4), Manish Pandey c Kaif b Praveen 66 (145m, 107b, 11x4), R Vinay Kumar (batting) 7 (9m, 9b, 1x4). Extras (B-6, LB-3, W-3) 12. Total (for four wickets, in 95 overs) 255.

Fall of wickets: 1-42 (Uthappa), 2-137 (Pawan), 3-138 (Satish), 4-246 (Pandey).
Bowling: Rudra Pratap Singh 18-3-53-2, Praveen Kumar 16-7-40-1, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 13-1-36-0 (w-3), Praveen Gupta 12-4-34-1, Piyush Chawla 25-7-44-0, Shivakant Shukla 5-1-15-0, Parvinder Singh 6-1-24-0.