Ranji Trophy: Doughty Himachal snatch lead

Last Updated 26 December 2019, 18:47 IST

On a day which needed more than a few cups of coffee to keep from nodding off, the desperation with which Karnataka’s bowlers operated was primary entertainment for a significant portion of the curtailed second day’s play at the SDNR Wadiyar Stadium in Mysuru on Thursday.

But despite their best efforts on a largely overcast day, Priyanshu Khanduri lulled those watching the proceedings into an undeliberate sway with the proficient use of a dead bat as the opener slowly but assuredly scored 69 runs. His 240-ball effort, coupled with Nikhil Gangta’s calculated profligacy en route 46 followed by Rishi Dhawan’s belligerent 72 not out, gave Himachal Pradesh the innings lead in their Group B Ranji Trophy tie.

With each component of the trio doing its bit, HP nullified Karnataka’s eagerness to reach 235 for 7 in 93 overs at stumps. Ankit Kalsi’s men enjoy a slim but useful lead of 69 runs with Dhawan and Akash Vashisht (18 n.o.) to resume on Day Three.

Surely, the visiting side’s skipper must be relieved, especially since they lost three wickets last evening (for 29 runs) and were down another early in the second morning. It must be noted that they were lucky to not have to face Karnataka’s bowlers at 9:30 am.

With the invisible solar eclipse deferring the start time to 11:15 am, they were spared the inconvenience of a fairly new ball early in the day. Instead, they had to bide time only for 45 minutes on a wicket which continued to play as still as the air here before breaking for lunch. This after the sun didn’t break through the grey till around 2.00 pm!

A Mithun’s fired-up approach gave Karnataka an ‘in’ after Mayank Dagar, overnight one, pushed at a length ball, nicking it to a diving B R Sharath behind the stumps. Mithun got the chirpers started, but as the day progressed, only an antsy Mayank Agarwal had voice left to offer. So pertinacious was Khanduri that even Sharath, normally exaggerated in vocal delivery, practiced silence.

Khanduri and Gangta came together at 32 for 4 and left Karun Nair and Co red-faced in adding 90 runs. Not a risk was taken as they played within themselves against the pacemen and went after the bad balls from the spinners. To their fortune, J Suchith and Shreyas Gopal offered plenty, the duo leaked 64 runs from 22 overs in the second session alone.

Suchith did manage a breakthrough after inciting an edge from Gangta through to Sharath, but the fifth-wicket alliance meant HP needed only 44 more runs to level scores. With Khanduri shelving his defensive approach for one which yielded runs at a relatively quicker clip, and Dhawan muscling everything in the arc, the sixth-wicket partnership realised 75 runs. In the process, they also gave the visitors the lead. Once that box was ticked, Dhawan showed Karnataka’s batsmen what one could/ should do on a track as subdued, and Khanduri gave the opposition a 364-minute masterclass on the rewards of restraint.

V Koushik (3/48) eventually dismissed Khanduri as a thick edge carried low to R Samarth at first slip, and accounted for Ankush Bains a couple of overs later. Still, the advantage rests with the side which was allowed to go beyond 200 for the first time in five innings this season.

(Published 26 December 2019, 18:45 IST)

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