Karnataka in command

Cricket Irani Cup: Solid partnerships power Ranji champions to 321-run lead

Karnataka in command
 Fifty-four, 51, 61, 106, 50. These are numbers without a sequence. But for Karnataka those digits held a lot of significance on Thursday.

Riding on those figures, partnerships for the first, second, fourth, fifth and seventh wickets, Karnataka gained a definite upper hand over Rest of India on the third day of their Irani Cup match at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. The defending champions reached 341 for six at close, extending their overall lead to 321 runs.

Resuming at 39 for no loss, Karnataka needed a solid effort from their batsmen to take control of the proceedings. In that context, they would have been hoping for one or two batsmen to bat big, and build their second innings around them.

It didn’t precisely pan out that way as none of the frontline batsmen made big individual runs. But they more than compensated for it by stitching together consistent partnerships to keep Karnataka ahead. Mayank Agarwal fell to Varun Aaron after a rather swift fifty-plus stand with his opening partner Ravikumar Samarth (81).

But Abhishek Reddy and Samarth added 51 for the second wicket to keep RoI at bay. Karnataka, though losing Reddy (31) and Robin Uthappa (6) in quick succession before lunch, had managed to amass 109 runs in the opening session of the day. It gave them a perfect launching pad to push for a bigger lead. They did that with some degree of comfort despite the RoI bowlers, particularly Aaron and Shardul Thakur, producing intense spells in the middle session.

First, Samarth and Karun Nair added 61 runs in 16 overs. Samarth at times gave you the feeling of not being ‘in’ despite going past his fifty and spending considerable time in the middle. But Karun was untroubled throughout. He warmed up with two fours off Pragyan Ojha – a drive through the covers and a sweep through the mid-wicket region. He followed those shots with a perfectly timed on-drive off Shardul Thakur to the ropes. Karun was on his way in a jiffy. But the dismissal of Samarth, castled by Thakur, forced him to adopt much calmer ways.

It might also have to do something with the fact that his partner for the fifth wicket was Manish Pandey. Manish has struggled for his range this season, and another quick wicket at that juncture would have pushed Karnataka against the wall. But in the company of Karun, Manish too grew in confidence gradually.

He gave an early indication of a different day with a fine ramp shot off Thakur, and three fours in an over off left-arm spinner Ojha. Manish, who suffered a painful blow on his left elbow by Aaron, had fortune’s assistance too as umpire failed to spot a thick inside edge off Ojha that carried to Jeewanjot Singh at silly point.

Their partnership looked good for much more than the eventual 106 off 163 balls. But Karun’s effort to sweep — one of his more productive shots — Ojha ended his stint for 80. Their partnership meant that Karnataka added 95 runs in the middle session for the loss of just one wicket.

However, it would have been a personally satisfying day for Karun as he managed to play such a fluent innings in front of the national selectors. After dismissing Shreyas Gopal for a zilch, RoI could have added the scalp of R Vinay Kumar as well to their kitty. But Unmukt Chand spilled a straightforward chance at slips off Rishi Dhawan when the batsman was on eight.

Vinay exploited that let off to the hilt, milking 50 runs for the unfinished seventh wicket stand with Manish (73 batting) as Karnataka moved quickly away from the Rest.

Score board

KARNATAKA (I Innings): 244 all out
REST OF INDIA (I Innings): 264 all out
KARNATAKA (II Innings, O/n: 39/0): R Samarth b Thakur 81 (255m, 159b, 10x4), Mayank Agarwal c Jadhav b Aaron 28 (72m, 35b, 4x4), Abhishek Reddy lbw P Ojha 31 (85m, 54b, 5x4), Robin Uthappa b Aaron 6 (21m, 15b, 1x4), Karun Nair lbw P Ojha 80 (200m, 123b, 12x4), Manish Pandey (batting) 73 (194m, 121b, 8x4), Shreyas Gopal c N Ojha b Dhawan 0 (6m, 4b), R Vinay Kumar (batting) 28 (65m, 47b, 4x4), Extras (B-5, LB-2, W-7) 14, Total (six wickets, 93 overs) 341

Fall of wickets: 1-54 (Agarwal), 2-105 (Reddy), 3-121 (Uthappa), 4-182 (Samarth), 5-288 (Karun), 6-289 (Shreyas).

Bowling: Rishi Dhawan 21-1-74-1 (w-2), Varun Aaron 20-2-85-2 (w-5), Shardul Thakur 21-4-60-1, Pragyan Ojha 26-3-93-2, Jayant Yadav 4-0-16-0, Manoj Tiwary 1-0-6-0.
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