It’s advantage Karnataka

It’s advantage Karnataka

A hard-nosed half-century from vice-captain Shreyas Gopal and dogged efforts from the tail — J Suchith and Abhimanyu Mithun — helped a battling Karnataka take the crucial first innings lead against Uttar Pradesh in their Ranji Trophy Group B encounter here on Thursday.

Continued reckless batting from the Karnataka middle-order saw them being reduced to 222/7 in the morning session of the third morning, the hosts in danger of conceding the first innings lead to an Uttar Pradesh attack still short of their lead pacer Ankit Rajpoot. But Shreyas, one of the few senior players in the side who spoke about personnel like him taking more responsibilities in a season where star players could be in and out owing to national duties, backed that talk with a monk-like 182-ball 58, sharing a crucial 57-run eighth-wicket stand with Suchith (28, 120b, 2x4) to bail Karnataka out of the mess they had got themselves into. The hosts, helped also by late fireworks from Mithun (34 n.o., 48b, 3x4, 1x6), went on to post 321 all out in 135.5 overs at the KSCA Stadium. UP then took stumps at 29/1.

Shreyas, meanwhile, watched in horror as wicketkeeper BR Sharath and David Mathias threw their wickets away to a parsimonious Saurabh Kumar (6/116) after overnight batsman Abhishek Reddy fell very early in the day. The need of the hour was caution rather than high-risk cricket but the two, tied down by the accurate left-arm spin of Saurabh, chose the latter and paid the price for it. Both Sharath and Mathias stepped down the track to break the Saurabh shackles, the former holing out to Rajpoot at midwicket and the latter missing the ball and stumped by Upendra Yadav. Spinners Shreyas and Suchith then went about repairing the job with good old-fashioned batting. They trusted their defences, hardly trying anything adventurous. Their onus was on occupying the crease as long as possible, inch closer to the UP total run by run and frustrate the UP attack. Runs came in a trickle during that phase where Saurabh bowled 18 overs on the bounce for just 29 runs, but Shreyas and Suchith weren’t perturbed.

They continued with that defensive approach in the second session too as Karnataka inched closer to the UP total. Just three runs short of UP total, Shreyas departed against the run of play. Saurabh appealed vehemently for LBW and although the ball appeared going down leg-side, umpire thought it was heading onto the stumps. The vice-captain trudged back extremely unhappy but he’d done his job. Karnataka surpassed UP just at the stroke of tea and thereafter Mithun used his long handle to good effect, his lusty blows ensuring Karnataka have a decent cushion.

The pitch here isn’t offering much help for the bowlers and unless Karnataka dish out an extraordinary effort with the ball on Friday or UP suffer a shocking collapse, this attritional contest will end up meeting its logical conclusion - a draw.