Mumbai begin uphill task

Mumbai begin uphill task

Mumbai begin uphill task
The second day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal between Karnataka and Mumbai began with multiple possibilities to ponder about. But at the end of a sunny Thursday, only one strong possibility remained – Karnataka entering their second successive final of India’s premier domestic tournament.

How Karnataka eliminated other options was the story of the day. They started the day at 10 for two, ahead by 168 runs, and needed a solid effort with the bat in their second innings to motor away from Mumbai. Despite a second session wobble, the home side made 286 all out for an overall lead of 444 runs.

Mumbai were 61 for no loss at close with Karnataka firmly in control of proceedings. The visitors now require 384 runs more for an improbable win with two days to go. Karnataka primarily owed that position of comfort to Abhimanyu Mithun, who made a fine 89 off 113 balls. It was also his highest score in first-class cricket, overturning 63.

It is easy to associate crudeness with a night-watchman’s batting. But Mithun’s batting would have put some top-order batsmen from either side to shame. Of course, the M Chinnaswamy stadium pitch had eased out considerably, but batsmen still needed to apply themselves to get runs. Mithun did precisely that in the company of an equally determined R Samarth (58).

The third-wicket alliance between Mithun and Samarth that fetched 149 runs in 218 balls was the most assured passage of batting over the last two days. Mithun was measured in his foot movement, and never attempted anything remotely extravagant.

It was not to say that he was overtly defensive. The right-hander showed no reticence to free his arms when the bowlers erred. Samarth too displayed his ability to play big shots when he lofted left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh over long off for a six. A flicked four off Wilkin Motta carried Mithun past the 50-run mark and he looked good for a maiden first-class hundred. But he was dismissed minutes before lunch, getting castled by Shardul Thakur, who once again shouldered Mumbai attack.

 At 161 for three, Karnataka had a good platform to launch the hunt for massive lead. But as it happened on the first day, the second session belonged to bowlers. Mumbai bowlers, led by Thakur and Balwinder Sandhu, applied brakes on Karnataka’s progress, plucking wickets at regular intervals.

 Samarth departed in the fourth ball of the post-lunch session. The right-hander came down the track by a mile only to essay a forward defensive shot against Harmeet, but he was beaten and stumper Aditya Tare did the rest with ease. However, Karun Nair, who completed 1000 first-class runs, and Manish Pandey added 59 runs for the fourth-wicket off 103 balls as the hosts seemed to gather steam. But Karnataka lost Karun, Pandey and Kunal Kapoor in the space of 11 runs to hand breathing period for Mumbai.

Karun edged Sandhu to Tare behind the wicket, while Kunal, who appeared completely at sea, feathered the right-arm pacer to Surya Kumar Yadav at second slip. Pandey was run out after a mix-up with CM Gautam, who didn’t come out for stumper’s duty in Mumbai’s second innings after suffering a hamstring niggle. Karnataka, losing some steam, had lost seven wickets in that session for 125 runs.

But those two aforementioned partnerships by then had given Karnataka enough runs in the bank and they straightaway attacked Mumbai openers – Tare and Akhil Herwadkar, filling the slip cordon. There, however, was no repeat of the first innings collapse as Tare and Herwadkar negotiated 17 overs without any alarm. But they still need to do lot more laps to catch up with Karnataka.
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