TN counter Vinay blitz

Karnataka struggling at 45/4 after bowling out opponents for 134

TN counter Vinay blitz

Just like it has been happening all season, Karnataka bowlers rolled over the opposition. And just like it has been happening almost all season, Karnataka’s top-order could not fire in unison.

It was an all too familiar situation on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final here at the Wankhede stadium. Skipper R Vinay Kumar, who grabbed his 300th Ranji wicket on Sunday, took five wickets as Karnataka bundled out Tamil Nadu for 134, gaining the early momentum.

But at close, the defending champions were wobbling at 45 for four, handing Tamil Nadu some breathing space. But let’s keep that aside for some time and have a closer look at the day’s protagonist – Vinay.

So, what makes Vinay tick? It’s not just about this season or this match. Vinay has been harrowing batsmen in Indian domestic circuit for so many seasons now. For that many seasons his detractors have tried to brush him away too. No pace. No single weapon to rattle batsmen. If they are in a generous mood then they would underplay him: Oh! He’s just an honest trier.

But each time, Vinay has proved them wrong, taking bucket-load of wickets in domestic cricket. The day offered a clue. There were no gremlins in the Wankhede strip, and Tamil Nadu batsmen have collectively been in good touch since entering the knockout stage. So what would Vinay do? The pacer produced a fine first spell (6-2-11-2) in which he dislodged Murali Vijay and Baba Aparajith to make early inroads into the TN line-up.

He then bowled two more spells in which he ousted his opposite number Abhinav Mukund, who was dropped on three, with a delivery that cut back off the seam, in-form Vijay Shankar and Ashwin Crist. There was nothing sensational about those dismissals. No banana swing. No disconcerting bounce. He landed the deliveries on spots where he exactly wanted at the right pace, he preyed on batsmen’s patience and they had no choice other than committing a fatal mistake at some point of time. It was more science than magic.

But then he had three fine partners too. Abhimanyu Mithun, S Arvind and H S Sharath followed their senior’s path. Mithun ensured that the Tamil Nadu late order, capable of garnering some quick runs, would not stick around for long, Arvind and Sharath chipped in with a wicket each to complete the demolition job.

In that, Sharath deserves a special mention. Bogged down by injury for a good part of the season, he also saw Arvind moving higher in the pecking order. But called in for the most important match, the strapping pacer never allowed any freebies to Tamil Nadu batsmen, dishing out a thrifty spell of 15-6-17-1. For most part of Tamil Nadu innings, their batsmen struggled to take the run rate even above two. In fact, they managed to score just 60 runs in the first session for the loss of four wickets.

The brilliant collective effort from their bowlers might have given Karnataka a mental edge once they came out to bat. But Tamil Nadu found a hero of their own in L Balaji, who tormented the Karnataka top-order. The veteran pacer, just like Vinay, bowled in the area on or around the off-stump to winkle out R Samarth and Robin Uthappa. Manish Pandey would have cursed himself for playing across a Balaji delivery that had more bounce than he expected, resulting in a tame loop to Aparajith at covers.

Losing four top-order wickets was not the only concern for the defending champions. Opener K L Rahul had to walk out with a pulled hamstring after making just one. Rahul suffered the injury while fielding making a sliding stop in the 60th over near the rope. However, Vinay clarified that Rahul would come out to bat on the second day. For Karnataka, that bizarrely remained comfort.

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