Shreyas leaves UP in a spin

Cricket Ranji Trophy

Shreyas leaves UP in a spin

Over number 61.2. Shreyas Gopal’s leg-break spin across Himanshu Asnora, leaving the Uttar Pradesh left-hander a puzzled man. Turn. Fizz. Loud appeals. Cluster of wickets.

Was this the same pitch on which Karnataka nonchalantly piled up 719 for nine and KL Rahul made a monumental 337? The visiting batsmen never appeared settled on the third day of their Ranji Trophy encounter, and were rolled over for 220 to concede a huge innings lead of 499 runs.

Quite expectedly, Karnataka didn’t enforce the follow-on, giving the top-order batsmen another chance to bat and get back fully into their groove ahead of the knockouts. They were eight for no loss at close, leading by 507 runs.

The Karnataka bowlers have commanded admiration and respect in equal measure for firing out the opposition on helpful conditions. But here at the M Chinnaswamy stadium, the storyline differed. They had a flat deck – never mind that green tinge on the strip – to master, and the hosts’ bowlers produced a masterclass.

Skipper R Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun hit the spot straightaway. Vinay produced a crafty first spell of 6-1-21-1, while Mithun never allowed any liberties to UP batsmen in his opening spell of 6-1-8-0. Though, they didn’t score many runs, UP managed to survive that testing phase for just the loss of Tanmay Srivastava.

Once they progressed to 53 for one, UP might have hoped to put up a fight and salvage some pride. But the introduction of S Arvind changed course. The left-arm pacer jettisoned Mukul Dagar and Umang Sharma in the 25th over to reduce UP to 61 for three.

In the only passage where UP batsmen looked capable of giving a fight, Asnora, who made a gritty 70, and Parvinder Singh added 83 off 179 balls for the fourth wicket stand.
At this point, the chief protagonist of the day took over. Prior to this match, Shreyas has been attracting headlines for his batting skills. Not without reason too, as he so far has made 536 runs at 89.33 to top Karnataka’s batting charts. His leg-spin was relegated to the shade a bit and there was this lingering suspicion of his batting workload taking the edge off his bowling. He had taken only 11 wickets from seven matches before this game. However, Shreyas obliterated all those doubts with a wonderful effort, extracting appreciable turn and bounce to bamboozle the UP batsmen.

Shreyas bagged four straight wickets in a fine spell (12-2-23-4). He dismissed Asnora, Parvinder Singh, Ekalavya Dwivedi and Praveen Kumar in that period as UP slumped to 161 for seven. The effort brought back memories of his maiden five-wicket haul  against the same opposition on this ground. Shreyas kept the batsmen on their toes with subtle variations of length, and mixed his leg-breaks and googlies that many times went unread.

While Asnora and Parvinder were attempting the rescue act, Karnataka had gone to defensive mode, spreading out the field and giving chance for them to garner easy singles. But Vinay rose to the occasion once Shreyas began to trouble UP batsmen.

Vinay cut out chances for singles, employing more fielders within the circle and around the batsmen. UP batsmen did not have the wherewithal to go through that ever-mounting pressure on them. Once Shreyas finished his spell there was nothing left in the UP innings, and the tailenders were brushed away by the pace trio of Arvind, Vinay and Mithun as Karnataka raced their way to a massive lead.

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