That simple fact encapsulated Tuesday’s play at the Chinnaswamy stadium as Karnataka secured their place in the final of the Ranji Trophy for the first time since 1998-99. With tyro A Mithun (4/51) maintaining his stranglehold over the Uttar Pradesh batsmen, Karnataka opened up a massive 367-run first-innings lead, rendering Wednesday’s play all but meaningless.
Already in the wars after slipping to 11 for two in response to Karnataka’s mammoth 575 for seven declared the previous evening, Uttar Pradesh were sent crashing to 208 all out – Dravid had made an unbeaten 209 on Monday – as Mithun scythed through them like a hot knife through butter.
With an eye on keeping the bowlers as fresh as possible ahead of the title clash against Mumbai beginning on Monday, Dravid opted not to enforce the follow on. Leggie Piyush Chawla cashed in on the increasingly pronounced uneven bounce to snaffle three for five in 16 deliveries so that Karnataka finished the penultimate day on 43 for three, ahead by 410.
Mithun was the undisputed star of the day, making the ball talk even on the docile track. Uttar Pradesh had had a taste of the Mithun medicine two months back in Meerut when, on debut, he took 11 wickets to set up Karnataka’s 185-run conquest.
Uttar Pradesh would have expected themselves to be better prepared this time around, but Mithun again blasted through them with a combination of great pace and not insignificant bounce. If anything, the placidity of the Chinnaswamy strip became his ally because the bounce he generated was just enough for the batsmen to have to play the ball which, needless to say, they didn’t do too well.
It was by no means Mithun all the way, but there is no denying that he had a mesmeric effect on the Uttar Pradesh batsmen that did R Vinay Kumar, S Arvind and Sunil Joshi’s cause no harm at all.
Any hopes the visitors might have had, despite being 11 for two, of making a match of it disappeared within 22 deliveries and as many minutes of the start of play. In the day’s third over, Mithun elicited a half-hearted waft from Tanmay Srivatsava that merely succeeded in deflecting the ball on to the stumps; seven deliveries later, Vinay got one to jag back considerably and catch Parvinder Singh palpably in front.
The twin blows reduced Uttar Pradesh to 13 for four, and an embarrassing rout appeared nigh with Mithun and Vinay having their tails up. An initially fortuitous Rohit Prakash and a more composed Mohd Kaif prevented total humiliation with an 88-run (152m, 247b) fifth-wicket association, though no one was under any illusion that it was nothing if not a losing battle.
While Mithun has hogged much of the bowling limelight this season, Vinay has been the most successful bowler in the country. Parvinder’s stick extended his tally to a nation-high 39, just reward for perseverance, commitment and no little skill. Mithun has 38 after his heroics on Tuesday while left-arm medium-pacer Arvind, who accounted for two late wickets, has 25. How’s that for incisiveness?!
The Kaif-Prakash partnership was just beginning to assume nuisance value when Dravid turned to his battering ram a little after lunch, and Mithun obliged immediately when he had Kaif playing on a fullish delivery. Joshi’s persistence landed him Prakash’s wicket as Robin Uthappa took a smart catch at silly point off the leading edge and Mithun then forced a clueless Amir Khan to put up a catch to short leg off a lifter.
Piyush Chawla and Praveen Kumar threw their bats around and the latter struck some lusty blows as he completed a half-century and angrily pointed the bat handle towards the specialist batsmen in the dressing room. Some merit in his frustration, but this was more a battle won by Karnataka rather than lost by UP.
Karnataka (I Innings): 575/7 decl in 176 overs
Uttar Pradesh (I Innings, O/n: 11/2): Tanmay Srivastava b Mithun 12 (46m, 29b, 2x4), Shivakant Shukla (run out) 0 (19m, 13b), Bhuvneshwar Kumar lbw Mithun 0 (3m, 1b), Mohammad Kaif b Mithun 30 (181m, 121b, 4x4), Parvinder Singh lbw Vinay 0 (5m, 4b), Rohit Prakash c Uthappa b Joshi 55 (174m, 163b, 7x4), Piyush Chawla lbw Arvind 36 (52m, 33b, 4x4, 1x6), Amir Khan c Uthappa b Mithun 0 (4m, 3b), Praveen Kumar (not out) 58 (73m, 60b, 4x4, 5x6), Praveen Gupta b Arvind 0 (5m, 3b), Rudra Pratap Singh b Verma 1 (37m, 18b). Extras (B-11, LB-1, W-2, NB-2) 16. Total (all out, 74.2 overs) 208.
Fall of wickets: 1-11 (Shukla), 2-11 (Bhuvneshwar), 3-12 (Srivastava), 4-13 (Parvinder), 5-101 (Kaif), 6-129 (Prakash), 7-130 (Amir), 8-160 (Chawla), 9-166 (Gupta).
Bowling: R Vinay Kumar 15-5-31-1 (nb-2), A Mithun 18-7-51-4 (nb-1), Sunil Joshi 23-6-56-1, S Arvind 14-3-45-2 (w-1), Amit Verma 4.2-1-13-1.
Karnataka (II Innings): Uthappa lbw Chawla 18 (65m, 46b, 2x4), Pawan lbw Chawla 16 (74m, 62b, 2x4), Satish (batting) 3 (23m, 18b), Pandey b Chawla 4 (6m, 4b, 1x4), Verma (batting) 1 (7m, 8b). Extras (B-1) 1. Total (for 3 wkts, 23 overs) 43.
Fall of wickets: 1-34 (Uthappa), 2-35 (Pawan), 3-39 (Pandey). Bowling: R P Singh 7-2-12-0, Bhuvneshwar 5-0-18-0, Praveen Gupta 6-3-3-0, Chawla 5-2-9-3.