Karnataka manage to eke out lead

Karnataka manage to eke out lead

Sharath Srinivas

Karnataka did not internalise Yere Goud’s knowledge of a venue he has known for close to 15 years and their own experience over the last three days at the Karnail Singh stadium. Resultantly, they were reduced to a bunch of anxiety-filled faces that were trembling at the thought of conceding the innings lead to a side they were expected to dominate.  

In the face of Amit Mishra (5/70) and Himanshu Sangwan (3/47) running riot, Sharath Srinivas (56 batting) showed great resolve to complement Devdutt Padikkal’s brief but brilliant essay (55 from 75 balls) to carry Karnataka to 199 for 9 in 65 overs, a lead of 17 runs.  

K Gowtham’s burst of exuberance en route 41 from 31 balls, including two massive sixes, too was much needed to shake Karnataka out of this nightmare. 

Quite the contrast from the beginning of the day when Prateek Jain (5/38) and A Mithun (4/51) combined to pick up nine wickets in bowling Railways out for 182 in 77.4 overs, sparking positivity.

Seemed like a small total when Jain walked away with the match ball following his maiden first-class fifer, but as soon as R Samarth saw his bails sail in the opening over from Mishra, Karnataka would have sensed trouble.

The pitch, which had seen only 329 minutes of play in the first two days combined, basked in sunlight on the penultimate day. It was indeed a fine day for cricket but the still-damp pitch forced Karnataka to look back on it with some resentment.

Having watched their batsmen slouch repeatedly to keep the ball from skidding under their bats, Railways’ pacers knew their best chance of keeping a lid on Karnataka would be to land it short of a length and on the off stump. 

The trio of Amit Mishra, T Pradeep and Himanshu Sangwan were so relentless in that pursuit that they attempted just the seven short balls for close to 40 overs before relying on the bouncers towards the end of the day. Short balls, irrespective of effort, were rising only so high as the sternum early on, and the short-of-length stuff yielded four out of the six wickets. No brainer. 

Samarth was the first victim of lack of bounce, though his dismissal also had to do with poor technique in leaving a huge gap between bat and pad. Rohan Kadam, Karun Nair and KV Siddharth were all struck at just over ankle height. Mishra and Sangwan had reduced Karnataka to 65 for 4. All this while, Padikkal looked pristine in playing some of the most sumptuous drives this game has seen. 

The only error he made all innings long was in attempting to run the ball to third man when a first slip, a gully and a deep third man were in place. He ended up nicking the ball to Mahesh Rawat at first slip instead. Shreyas became Avinash Yadav’s only victim not much later. 

The innings lead looked out of reach until Srinivas and Gowtham put together 64 runs under duress. Gowtham then did the unthinkable in mistiming a pull off of Mishra to Harsh Tyagi at deep midwicket. Nine runs were still needed for the lead. 

Karnataka lost A Mithun and Ronit More to Mishra’s 17th over. Six more runs for the lead. Srinivas and Jain showed great maturity in tackling these tense moments to get Karnataka past the hurdle.

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