Bawne shores up Maharashtra

Bawne shores up Maharashtra

 On a day when fortunes swung back and forth, Maharashtra finished the proceedings with their noses slightly in front largely on the back of a sparkling knock from young Ankit Bawne.

Till about 20 minutes into the final session of play, Karnataka were seemingly in control of things, having reduced Maharashtra to 215 for five after being asked to bowl first. Bawne, however, produced a crafty innings (89 batting, 232m, 172b, 10x4) to deny Karnataka full honours. When stumps were drawn for the opening day of the Ranji Trophy final on Wednesday, Maharashtra reached 272 for five with Bawne and Sangram Atitkar (29 batting) holding the fort. The duo so far has added 57 runs for the unbroken sixth wicket partnership.

On a pitch that was on the slower side, Karnataka began well after ringing in two changes to their side that played the semifinal against Punjab. Mayank Agarwal made way for Ganesh Satish while paceman S Arvind replaced Ronit More. Arvind’s inclusion was mainly because of the dual role – left-arm seamer and spinner – that he can play. He did try his left-arm spin for four overs but looked ineffective with the surface offering only a hint of turn. It’s with his seam bowling that he found the day’s second success after Vinay Kumar had provided them the early breakthrough.

Vast experience

Maharashtra openers were progressing along well when Vinay’s vast experience came to the fore. The Karnataka skipper got one to shape into tournament’s second top run-getter Harshad Khadiwale who played inside the line to be caught plumb in front. Karnataka faced a few anxious moments as umpire Anil K Chaudhary went upstairs to check the legitimacy of the ball and fortunately for Vinay, he had just about managed to land a part of his foot behind the line.       

Having sized up the nature of the pitch, the right-arm paceman changed Arvind’s bowling end and the 31-year-old, who is playing his first game after the tie against Gujarat at the beginning of the season, induced a thick edge off Vijay Zol to stumper CM Gautam. With a little bit of luck, Arvind could have added one more victim had a diving Manish Pandey held on to a nick from Chirag Khurana (64, 212m, 145b, 8x4) at second slip. The batsman, on 14 then, not only went on to bring up the day’s second highest innings but forged two crucial stands. While Khurana added 48 runs with Kedar Jadhav for the third wicket, 54 runs came for the fourth wicket with skipper Rohit Motwani.  

Despite these associations, Karnataka remained in the game with regular breaks. Mithun accounted for the dangerous Jadhav with a leg-side trap while part-time offie Karun Nair ended Khurana’s resistance, catching him in front with a beautifully flighted delivery for his maiden first-class wicket even as Shreyas Gopal failed to make any impact with his leg-spinners.     

Maharashtra appeared to be running away with the game when Bawne and Motwani joined forces in the middle. With Motwani holding one end up, Bawne began to score freely. The application Bawne showed was remarkable and his use of the feet against spinners was commendable. The left-right combination had raised 71 runs between them when Motwani played a poor shot – chasing an outside-the-off delivery – to offer Gautam his third catch of the day.    

Another couple of wickets would have firmly put Karnataka in command but Bawne and Sangram Atitkar, who had scored a big century against Bengal in the semifinal, denied them further success. They not only negotiated both pacers and spinners with aplomb but scored at a healthy pace, never allowing the bowlers to settle into a rhythm. The new ball, which was summoned in the 84th over, didn’t seem to ruffle the two.

With the pitch likely to ease more on the second and third day, Karnataka know they can’t afford to allow the partnership to grow further.  

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