Nair keeps Karnataka afloat

Nair keeps Karnataka afloat

cricket ranji trophy

Karnataka captain Karun Nair (left) came up with a timely half century to keep the hosts’ heads above the water against Himachal Pradesh in Mysuru on Wednesday. Haryana pacer Kanwar Abhinay grabbed five wickets. DH Photos/ SAVITHA BR

Consistency proved trump card once again as Himachal Pradesh’s bowlers baited out Karnataka’s batsmen one by one to gain a slight edge over the hosts after a compelling opening day in their Ranji Trophy clash at the SDNR Wadiyar stadium in Mysuru on Wednesday. 

Asked to bowl first, Kanwar Abhinay, Vaibhav Arora and Rishi Dhawan didn’t have much to work with as the conditions, though overcast, didn’t particularly aid movement, and the pitch wasn’t doing much either. Yet, they picked up ten wickets between them with discipline in bowling just short of a length for prolonged periods.

Abhinay, playing his first game this season, picked up five for 37, while Arora (2/41) bagged two and Dhawan (3/27) scalped three. What this meant was that Karnataka were scuttled out for 166 in 67.2 overs. 

Sure, the hosts didn’t have much reason to smile, primarily since a chunk of their wickets were handed to the opposition, but they did strike gold with Karun Nair returning to form with a fine 81. Had it not been for him setting shop, and for Sumeet Verma’s drop when said batsman was on 38, Karnataka would have almost certainly come on to bowl much earlier. 

Unresponsive

When they did, A Mithun & Co understood just how hard they would have to toil to pick up wickets on a pitch as unresponsive. But V Koushik and Prateek Jain hit the corridor of uncertainty with regularity and reduced HP to 29 for 3 in 17 overs. The visitors trail by 137 runs without much of batting unit to speak of, but Priyanshu Khanduri has looked steady on an unbeaten 14. 

Essentially, Khanduri offered a lesson in batting up front, and Mayank Agarwal was taking note from the slip cordon. For, the Indian Test opener belied his reputation for grinding it out by playing a tenderfoot cut off the very first ball of the game. The delivery from Abhinay deserved to be hit as it was short, wide and slow but Agarwal didn’t account for the added bounce from the tall seamer. The result was a thick edge to the keeper and Agarwal trudging back to the pavilion.

Padikkal joined D Nischal in the middle and looked his nonchalant self until he flicked it straight to Nikhil Gangta at square leg.

Poor luck is what that was. With R Samarth and Nischal, though, it was a case of lack of focus. Both played the wrong line to be adjudged leg before wicket, and now Karnataka were 4 for 30. Abhinay’s first spell read: 7-4-12-3.

Again, the burden landed on Shreyas Gopal’s shoulders as the jogged out to meet Nair in the middle. A useful 27 runs later he did the unthinkable in offering shoulder arms to a full ball on the off stick. The 56-run alliance ended with Nair looking despondent.

BR Sharath, whose struggles with the bat are mounting, was as quick to leave as he was to run down the stairs of the pavilion and Mithun entertained a while before handing Abhinay his fifth wicket. 

All this while, Nair looked indomitable and primed for his 15th first-class century. That would have indeed been an ideal Christmas Day gift. Alas. He pulled Dhawan straight to Khanduri at midwicket and that was the end of the resistance.  

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