Madhu Jawali, Jan 8, 2014, DHNS:
Twin centuries help hosts recover from a poor start to a healthy 297 for five
One experienced batsman came back with a bang after a long injury lay-off, another senior shed his indifferent form in emphatic manner and a youngster further enhanced his growing reputation as Karnataka not only offset the early setbacks but established a measure of control over Uttar Pradesh here on Wednesday.
On a pitch that had a liberal sprinkling of grass, Uttar Pradesh put Karnataka into bat and the decision turned out to be the right one as the hosts were left in disarray at three down for 15 in quick time. Opener KL Rahul got out to a debatable caught-behind decision off Ankit Rajpoot while Amit Mishra, replacing RP Singh, struck twice in his opening over to dismiss R Samarth and an in-from Manish Pandey off successive deliveries. Incidentally, all three batsmen fell without opening their account.
Just when it appeared that the UP bowlers would make further inroads on what appeared to be a pace-friendly surface, Robin Uthappa (100, 230m, 160b, 19×4) and Karun Nair (100, 331m, 246b, 14×4, 1×6) stemmed the rot with a 120-run partnership before a more productive 162-run alliance between Nair and CM Gautam (89 batting, 144m, 101b, 14×4) took Karnataka to a healthy 297 for five at close on the opening day of the five-day Ranji Trophy quarterfinal here at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
It wasn’t an ideal situation to be in for Uthappa, who was playing his first game in more than a month, and an inexperienced Nair. But the two right-handers hauled Karnataka back from a precarious situation with an association unsurprisingly dominated by Uthappa. The 28-year-old wasn’t quite his aggressive self as the number of boundaries would suggest but he didn’t either allow the visiting attack to dictate terms. Even as Nair lent him an assured company, Uthappa kept picking boundaries that eased the tension in the middle.
Given the situation the hosts were in, Uthappa didn’t have the luxury of playing his natural game. While he did take some time to free up, there was no sign of rustiness as he never let go an opportunity to score. Though he was particularly severe against anything that was pitched on or slightly outside leg stump, he also used the cut and drive to good effect. Uthappa enjoyed a slice of luck too when he was caught at deep backward square-leg off a no-ball from skipper RP Singh with his personal score on 58. It was the third over after lunch and the left-arm paceman walked off immediately with a hamstring injury, further denting UP’s prospects.
Uthappa was guilty of throwing his wicket away soon after reaching his century, his 14th in first-class cricket, but Nair wasn’t going to make it any easier for the UP bowlers who had begun to lose steam after the increased workload. Though Nair was looking firm, it was Gautam who tilted the balance with a flurry of slog-swept boundaries. Coming into the match, the right-hander lacked runs but he looked hardly short on confidence as he raced to his 50 in just 59 balls. Gautam’s aggression rubbed on Nair as well and the duo collected 104 runs in the final session at more than four runs an over.
Karnataka would have been in a far more comfortable situation had Nair survived the final over of the day. But with Gautam looking good for a long haul and all-rounder Shreyas Gopal to follow, Karnataka will not want to settle for anything less than 400