Rahul's century put champs in command

Shreyas slams unbeaten 88 as Karnataka post 326/ 4

Rahul's century put champs in command

It is quite fascinating to watch K L Rahul expressing his talent. He doesn’t indulge your aesthetic sense with a series of rasping shots like Robin Uthappa or Manish Pandey do.

It’s an act of minimalism. There is hardly anything out of place in a Rahul innings. He doesn’t drive, cut or pull balls that are not really meant for those particular shots.

Rahul’s eighth first-class hundred (150 n.o.) was no exception. With an equally solid Shreyas Gopal (88 n.o.) for company, Rahul led Karnataka to a commanding 326 for four at close on day one of their Ranji Trophy game against Uttar Pradesh here on Thursday at the M Chinnaswamy stadium.

In a way, the situation was tailor-made for Rahul and Shreyas after the top four batsmen once again wasted an opportunity to come good. R Samarth, who opened in place of Uthappa, left alone a ball from Praveen Kumar that shaped in slightly with disastrous consequences.

Uthappa, who came at one down, looked in prime touch but couldn’t capitalise on his start. He departed for a brisk 41, playing a tame lofted chip off left-arm spinner Ali Murtuza to Parvinder Singh at mid-wicket.

Rahul and Uthappa added 80 runs for the second wicket in 17 overs. Pandey too looked good but couldn’t keep his pull off Praveen down, offering a dolly to Tanmay Srivastava. The wily pacer extended Karun Nair’s ordinary season, castling him for a nought.

At 148 for four in 46.5 overs, the home side needed a big partnership to ease the worries. Rahul and Shreyas provided that for the fifth wicket, milking 178 runs in 259 balls. Praveen was getting appreciable swing and the spinners turned the odd one sharply but those were not enough to rattle Rahul and Shreyas.

In the initial part of their partnership, Rahul did the duty of a senior partner with aplomb, guiding Shreyas, who was dropped on 16 by Umang Sharma at slips off chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, to a zone of comfort. Once he was convinced of Shreyas’ increasing confidence, Rahul went back to focusing more on his innings. It was a wonderful act to watch too.

Of course, Rahul is an immensely talented batsman. But it is captivating to see him giving his batting a cerebral touch. His situational awareness and clear headedness while choosing to play each shot are quite remarkable. Those qualities defined his innings this day too.

There was only one strange passage in his innings that lasted 370 minutes, and fortunately it didn’t last long. A few overs into the first session, Rahul, inexplicably, began to play reverse sweeps against Kuldeep.

There was a complete miss that went for four byes, and the next time he was caught in an awkward position as the ball thudded on to his bat. Rahul shed that unnecessary aggression soon, returning to his trusted ways. Rahul lost his cool once more in his innings when he was on 121. 

Perhaps in his attempt to keep spinners unsettled, he tried to pull Kuldeep. Murtuza running in from mid-wicket failed to pouch that top edge. But those were aberrations, as Rahul remained unflappable throughout.

Once he settled into his rhythm, Sheyas, who overtook Uthappa as the highest run-getter this season so far for the state, too played some excellent shots. The right-hander, playing in his second Ranji Trophy season, has made some big strides as a batsman.

His strong mind was evident in Mysore when he bailed out Karnataka from a precarious 50 for six against Baroda with a doughty fifty.

His steeliness was on view here too. He read the length of the pacemen perfectly, and stayed at the crease often to play spinners late. Now, Karnataka will need some more runs from them and the remaining batsmen to push UP further to the wall.

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