Rahul holds Karnataka together with a fine 92
Despite the floundering batting, Karnataka remained ahead of Uttar Pradesh thanks to a superlative effort by KL Rahul.
Having set a target of 333 runs after posting 204 all out in their second innings, Karnataka prised out opener Mukul Dagar as Uttar Pradesh finished day three of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal on 55 for one here on Thursday at the Chinnaswamy stadium.
Opener Tanmay Srivatsava (23) was at the crease with Ali Murtuza giving him the company. It was a good fightback from the visitors after conceding a 128-run first innings lead but with still 278 runs to be made in the fourth innings on a tricky surface, Karnataka had more reasons to be confident of a favourable outcome.
UP declared their innings at the overnight score of 221 for nine which meant Karnataka had to negotiate the tough morning conditions but they couldn’t, even with one UP bowler – RP Singh – not operating. While the pacemen were expected to do the bulk of the damage, it was Mutruza (6/64) who walked away with the bowling honours. The left-arm spinner isn’t a big turner of the ball and nor did the pitch aid him much, but his strategy to choke the runs paid him rich dividends.
Robin Uthappa was dismissed in the opening over of the day and with R Samarth having hurt his right little finger while attempting a sharp catch at slips on Thursday, Karnataka adopted a bizarre strategy of promoting skipper R Vinay Kumar and Abrar Kazi at number 3 and 4, apparently to not to disturb the batting orders of specialist batsmen. Vinay and Kazi’s stints were unproductive and their dismissals only added to the pressure.
Manish Pandey fell to shot which would have left him disappointed even considering his own impetuous standards – trying to pull pacer Amit Mishra from well outside off-stump and miscuing to be caught at covers when both situation and conditions demanded him to curb his natural instincts. Rahul, though, was Pandey’s absolute anti-thesis. He remained stranded on 92 (292m, 188b, 13×4) but it was an innings worth its weight in gold. Showing maturity beyond his years, the opener held the innings together even as his partners kept deserting him. On a pitch where one never felt in, he put price on his wicket and didn’t let the situation get the better of him. He did enjoy a couple of useful partnerships – 43 runs with Karun Nair for the fifth-wicket and 63 with CM Gautam for the sixth-wicket – but with Samarth rendered almost horse-de-combat and Sharath ruled out from bowling in the second, Karnataka needed much more from their batsmen to feel safe.
Samarth, who walked in at number 9, is likely to be out for at least a fortnight while Sharath has been advised three-day rest which means Karnataka will have to do with only four specialist bowlers, including Shreyas Gopal. Shreyas, who accounted for Dagar, has been impressive with his leg-spinners (11 wickets in three matches) but he needs to get some runs as well if he has to justify the tag of an all-rounder. The 20-year-old has managed just 48 runs in five innings. The day’s honours clearly belonged to Uttar Pradesh but they still have a mountain to climb to deny hosts a place in the semifinals. Batting in the first session on all three days has proved to be a difficult task and even with a depleted attack, Karnataka can be handful