Karnataka fight to stay ahead on bowlers' day

Karnataka fight to stay ahead on bowlers' day

J&K bowled for 160; hosts limp to 123/5 on opening day

Karnataka fight to stay ahead on bowlers' day

Karnataka and Jammu and Kashmir waged a grim battle to gain upper hand on Monday when pace bowlers held sway over the proceedings.

Karnataka pacers set the trend for a manic day that saw 15 wickets tumbling after skipper R Vinay Kumar elected to field. They exploited a pitch with a liberal smattering of grass and gloomy conditions to blow away J&K on the first day of their Group A Ranji Trophy match at the KSCA–Rajnagar stadium.

The four-pronged Karnataka pace attack never gave any respite to J&K, rolling them over for 160 in 52.1 overs, with Vinay claiming four for 37. However, the defending champions couldn’t make a smooth progress against a set of spot-on J&K quicks, reaching 123 for five in 30 overs at close, trailing by 37 runs.

That late struggle notwithstanding, Karnataka won the first two sessions of the day through the diligence of their bowlers. There, however, were no signs of a collapse in the initial phase of the morning session, and if anything the J&K openers – Adil Reshi and Obaid Haroon – looked assured.

Vinay and Abhimanyu Mithun too looked a tad plain with the new ball, despite beating the bat a couple of times. Both the Karnataka bowlers were too straight to trouble the batsmen. But the introduction of left-arm seamer S Arvind in the 10th over transformed the line of attack.

Of course, there was Arvind’s natural angle across the batsmen, and Vinay too came around the wicket, putting a brake on J&K openers. The sudden change of line had the desired effect as the hosts picked two quick wickets of Haroon and Reshi, falling to Arvind and Vinay respectively.

It followed a period where J&K stitched together two handy stands of 27 and 54 for the third and fourth wickets. The latter was the smoothest phase in J&K innings when Ian Dev Singh and skipper Parvez Rasool milked Karnataka bowling effortlessly. They went into lunch on a satisfactory 109 for three in 34 overs.

But the middle session saw a seismic shift in the course of the J&K innings. Mithun brought in the change. The ever-trying pacer ousted Rasool and Ian Dev in quick succession as J&K slipped to 129 for five. Mithun’s second spell read an impressive 6-3-6-2.

Rest of the J&K batting order didn’t have enough grit or skill to resist Vinay and Stuart Binny (3/37). The visitors lost their remaining five wickets for 31 runs in 12.1 overs and the total didn’t look capable even to stretch Karnataka batsmen.

But precisely the opposite happened. Karnataka started on an unsteady note, as they could not field Robin Uthappa, their best batsmen, upfront. Uthappa was out of the field for 21 minutes, and as per rules he had to wait for a similar amount of time before coming out to bat.

It forced the home team management to combine Mayank Agarwal with Karun Nair. The change of combination didn’t bring any change of fortune as the lean patch continued. Karun’s attempt to play across the line against Ramdayal saw his woodwork getting rearranged.

Mayank edged Ramdayal to Ian Dev at slips as Karnataka took tea at 14 for two. But a 55-run alliance for the third wicket between Manish Pandey (33) and Kunal Kapoor seemed to bring them back on track. Mohammad Mudhasir jettisoned Kunal, Manish and Binny in an impressive eight-over first spell as Karnataka slid to 83 for five in 22.4 overs.

But Uthappa (37 n.o.) and CM Gautam (14 n.o.) survived nearly eight overs. More importantly, they added 40 runs during that period, playing some excellent shots. Uthappa’s bullet-like straight drive off Umar Nazir, perhaps, was the shot of the day.
Karnataka will require more of that on the morrow.