Red hot Salvi has Karnataka batsmen reeling

Pacemans five-wicket haul helps Mumbai assume command on day two

Red hot Salvi has Karnataka batsmen reeling


A tactical masterstroke that catapulted Dhawal Kulkarni, hardly heralded for his batting skills, to number seven in a strong but stuttering Mumbai line-up ensured the defending champions built considerably on a 103-run first-innings lead over Karnataka on day two of the Ranji Trophy final.

Aavishkar Salvi’s first five-wicket haul of the season had comprehensively scuttled the hosts’ designs of replying strongly to Mumbai’s 233. Karnataka’s young batsmen were completely unprepared for the myriad challenges posed by a three-pronged Mumbai pace attack and keeled over for 130, their lowest total of the season coming at the most inopportune time.

Compensating for the batsmen’s inefficacy, Abhimanyu Mithun gave Mumbai a serious working over, combining pace and accuracy to a nicety to reduce Wasim Jaffer’s team to 51 for five. Just as everyone expected Ajit Agarkar to join Abhishek Nayar in the middle, Mumbai sprang a surprise by promoting Kulkarni.

Last season’s joint highest wicket-taker kept Nayar company till stumps in an unseparated sixth-wicket stand of 57 to rally Mumbai to 108 for five, an overall lead of 211 that isn’t decisive yet, but rapidly getting there.

Kulkarni’s highest first-class score before Tuesday was 28. Batting with an assurance and composure way above his numbers, he unleashed some sparkling back foot strokes off R Vinay Kumar towards the end of a long day to finish unbeaten on 35, a handy contribution in a match where runs have been as hard to come by as hen’s teeth.
Nayar’s adaptability and Kulkarni’s adventurism helped Mumbai make light of the top-order collapse triggered by Mithun’s hostility. In two bursts either side of tea, he cut a swathe through the top-order, eliciting loose strokes from Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane, trapping Omkar Khanvilkar in front with a screamer and having Vinayak Samant fending to short-leg. In the interim, Vinay accounted for the fortuitous Sahil Kukreja, dropped on two and six, but Karnataka’s hopes of hastening the end were comprehensively thwarted by Nayar and Kulkarni.

There was no one batsman, let alone a pair, that showed the gumption and tenacity required for Karnataka to bat themselves into a position of strength. Throughout this season, Karnataka have found at least one man for every crisis; when it came to the crunch, no one put his hand up.

Well as Agarkar, Kulkarni and Salvi exploited the conditions, Karnataka’s anaemic total was largely of their own making. There was considerable seam and bounce for the second straight day – 14 wickets fell for 223 runs – and Mumbai’s bowlers had the expertise to consistently put the ball in the right areas, but with more commitment and application, Karnataka could so easily have avoided the surrender.

The rout began in the day’s fourth over when Agarkar had night watchman Vinay fending to short-leg. For nearly an hour, the impressive KB Pawan -- the best of the home batsmen until driving distantly from his body and seeing Ramesh Powar take a sharp low catch to his left at mid-off -- and Ganesh Satish kept Mumbai at bay, but the first loose stroke of the day from the latter triggered a procession from where there was no way back for Robin Uthappa’s lads.

Until then a picture of great correctness and soft hands, Satish went hard at Salvi and put third slip in business. The biggest blow came off the next delivery when Salvi rapped Manish Pandey on the pad with a jag-backer. The ball struck the batsman marginally outside off but Amiesh Saheba upheld the loud shout, and Karnataka’s highest scorer of the season was sent packing.

Salvi didn’t concede a run for his first 32 deliveries, and reaped the rewards for consistency and persistence as Karnataka kept plumbing the depths, best illustrated by Stuart Binny’s run-out after a horrible mix-up with CM Gautam at the stroke of lunch. Mumbai are past masters whilst donning the front-running role; is there fight in the young Karnataka outfit yet as they face the biggest test of their character?
DH News Service

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