Luck, they say, is a thin wire between survival and disaster.
Largely unlucky during their best efforts on the day, pacers Abhimanyu Mithun and Ronit More chose to fight on. The duo’s terrific inner drive to succeed kept Karnataka in the hunt against Saurashtra in their Ranji Trophy semifinal on Friday.
On the second day here at the Chinnaswamy stadium, Saurashtra finished 227/7 at stumps in response to Karnataka’s 275 all out. The visitors, who are 48 runs adrift of Karnataka, could have been in a much better position. But, in a perfect example of see-saw battle, Karnataka hit back just in time in all three sessions to keep the game nicely poised.
No other player attracted as much attention as Cheteshwar Pujara did ahead of the semifinal. But sometimes, even the big names require moments of good fortune to excel. Pujara received his chance in the 23rd over.
The India Test batsman, surprised by a rising delivery from Mithun, gloved it to the wicketkeeper. The Karnataka players erupted in joy but Pujara remained unflinched in the crease. To the utter disbelief of the hosts, on-field umpire Khalid Hussen Saiyed ruled it not out and signalled that the ball had hit Pujara’s shoulder. Television replays revealed the ball had brushed Pujara’s gloves.
Even as a mild uproar on the quality of umpiring in Indian domestic cricket and the importance of the DRS technology in the knockout games of the Ranji Trophy occurred in different platforms of social media, More and Mithun were executing fiery spells on the field.
Mithun (1/44), not only troubled a batsman of high calibre like Pujara but the Karnataka veteran also kept beating the bat of the well-set Snell Patel (85, 131b, 15x4) with his outswingers. More was equally lethal from the other end. He was in control against Pujara by mostly teasing him outside the off-stump. In an absorbing passage of first hour after lunch, Karnataka just gave away 17 runs from 12 overs.
For his relentless hard work, Mithun eventually had his man. Pujara, on 45 (99b, 3x4, 1x6), attempted an uncharacteristic shot. The right-hander, while trying to pull a short ball, top edged it and Mithun pocketed an easy return catch. Pujara’s 160-minute stay in the middle saw him first forge a 74-run alliance with Snell (85, 131b, 15x4) and then stitch 41 with Sheldon Jackson (46, 62b, 4x4, 2x6).
Jackson’s breezy knock was bothering Karnataka until More produced a three-wicket burst in the final half an hour. More induced an edge off Jackson’s willow to the wicketkeeper and then dismissed Prerak Mankad, who was also out caught behind. This time, Karnataka were the lucky as the ball had missed the bat and the man in focus was Khalid Hussen again. More claimed his fourth five-wicket haul of the season by dismissing Kamlesh Makwana.
“We played bad shots towards the end and that has slightly shifted the balance in Karnataka’s favour,” said Snell. “But we are still in it.”
Mithun and More needed better support from their team-mates but proven match winners like R Vinay Kumar, K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal failed to make an impact.
Earlier, Karnataka, resuming from 264/9, could add only 11 runs. Sharath Srinivas was stranded on 83 (214b, 12x4).
Karnataka received a blow in the final session of their Ranji Trophy semifinal against Saurashtra when K Gowtham injured his left knee. The off-spinning all-rounder, whose knee got stuck in the ground while he was trying to stop a ball, lost balance and suffered an ugly fall. He was helped off the field by the physio. The Karnataka team management said that Gowtham felt strong pain but it was mostly due to the impact and ruled out a serious injury.
DH News Service