Karun puts champs on top

Cricket Ranji Trophy : Right-hander hammers fine century as Karnataka take lead

Karun puts champs on top

Unlike on Thursday’s opening day, there was no fluctuation in fortune. It was a rather one-way traffic as Karnataka took firm control of their match against Bengal with centurion Karun Nair (119 n.o., 252m, 173b, 18x4) headlining their dominant batting show.

Having packed off Bengal for their overnight score of 312, with R Vinay Kumar claiming the last wicket off the second ball of the day, Karnataka finished the second day of their Group ‘A’ match at 322 for four off 84 overs, 10 runs ahead, here at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Friday. After an edgy start, Karnataka batsmen held sway over the proceedings with Nair, Manish Pandey (53, 80b, 9x4) and Shreyas Gopal (54 n.o., 93b, 7x4) producing sparkling innings.

A well-set Nair and Shreyas, who have already added 113 runs (117b) for the unfinished fifth wicket on another extended day, will look to increase their lead substantially. The hosts also received good news when the left-handed Shishir Bhavane, who hurt his top hand while negotiating a ball that he presumed would fly over his head but stayed low to hit his unprotected forearm, was declared fit to bat.

The day, insofar as batting is concerned, began on a disappointing note for the home team when Robin Uthappa fell cheaply once again, inside-edging pacer Ashok Dinda. His opening partner R Samarth (30) and Bhavane (32 retired hurt) perhaps gave more respect to a Bengal attack that was at best honest and Karnataka broke for lunch at 76/2 off 26.2 overs after the latter left the field writhing in pain.

The middle session of the day, however, changed the complexion of the game. There is never a dull moment when Pandey is in the middle. You can expect the expected and that’s wholesome entertainment. Playing his first match of the season after missing the season opener against Assam with a hand injury, the right-hander cut, pulled and punched his way to an attractive half-century which drove away the ennui that was enveloping after an uneventful opening session.

The post-lunch session saw Pandey walk with new partner in Nair and the two talented right-handers came up with a dazzling stroke-play that generated oohs and aahs from the small gathering. Pandey set the tone for the most entertaining phase of the match by creaming the chirping, staring Dinda to three fours in a single over. Pandey’s approach rubbed on Nair as well and the 23-year-old kept pace with his more flamboyant team-mate.

Neither the pace nor the spin could have any sort of influence on the two as they struck 17 fours during their 114-run (153b) stand for the third wicket (including 16 runs between Pandey and Bhavane for the same wicket). Against the run of play, Pandey got out tamely by pulling straight into throat of mid-wicket, missing out on an opportunity score a big one. Nair, however, wasn’t going to squander his start. After spanking Pragyan Ojha for three consecutive fours, during which he brought up his fifty, Nair slowed things down a bit before opening up in the last half hour or so.

CM Gautam showed an unnecessary urgency, chasing Ojha and offering a catch to a diving Sreevats Goswami at backward point, but Shreyas hung on patiently before essaying some delectable drives. Nair and Shreyas were made to work hard for their runs after the 60th over when Bengal pacers employed an outside off-stump line with a predominantly off-side field but it was difficult for the visiting bowlers to sustain that discipline for too long. The tired limbs and aching shoulders showed up soon and runs began to come in a canter. Nair went on to complete his sixth first-class century, and perhaps his finest, while Shreyas brought up his third first-class fifty.

Score board

BENGAL (I Innings; O/n: 312/9): Ashok Dinda c Sharath b Vinay 4 (12m, 8b, 1x4), Sourav Sarkar (not out) 0 (0b). Extras (B-1, LB-5, W-6) 12. Total (all out, 88.2 overs) 312
Fall of wickets:  9-312 (VP Singh).

Bowling: R Vinay Kumar 22.2-3-80-4 (w-6), A Mithun 16.4-3-46-1, HS Sharath 19.2-3-47-3 (w-1), Shreyas Gopal 16-0-70-1, J Suchith 10-1-39-0, Karun Nair 2-0-14-0, R Samarth 2-0-10-0.

KARNATAKA (I Innings): R Samarth c Saha b VP Singh 30 (115m, 57b, 4x4), Robin Uthappa b Dinda 3 (15m, 8b), Shishir Bhavane (retd hurt) 32 (122m, 75b, 2x4), Manish Pandey c Goswami b LR Shukla 53 (118m, 80b, 9x4), Karun Nair (batting) 119 (252m, 173b, 18x4), CM Gautam c Goswami b Ojha 15 (35m, 21b, 2x4), Shreyas Gopal (batting) 54 (121m, 93b, 7x4). Extras (LB-13, NB-3) 16. Total (For 4 wkts, 84 overs) 322

Fall of wickets: 1-9 (Uthappa), 2-60 (Samarth), 3-174 (Pandey), 4-209 (Gautam).
Bowling: Ashok Dinda 15-2-61-1, Sourav Sarkar 10-0-37-0, Laxmi Ratan Shukla 17-2-41-1, Veer Pratap Singh 13-0-44-1 (nb-3), Pragyan Ojha 23-2-95-1, Manoj Tiwary 6-0-31-0.

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