Rajasthan hold the edge after posting 393
Day 2 Karnataka 118 for 3 (Uthappa 55) trail Rajasthan 393 (Bist 99, Jhalani 62, Joshi 6-83) by 275 runs
This wasn't supposed to be a tight match but for the second consecutive day, underdogs Rajasthan gave Karnataka a run for their money at the Gangothri Glades in Mysore, doing their best to overcome an early-season slump. Rookie Robin Bist was unlucky to fall one short of a maiden first-class hundred but set the tone for a stellar rearguard action as the tail added 105 to get Rajasthan to a season-best 393. Robin Uthappa's first fifty of the season gave Karnataka a solid start, but at 118 for 3 and with an out-of-form line-up ahead, the favourites aren't looking so hot.
Karnataka started off on the right note, as NC Aiyappa got Rohit Jhalani (62) to fend at one with an open face and edge low to B Akhil at second slip. Then, for the second time in the match, Sunil Joshi struck twice to swing the momentum back Karnataka's way. But, as was the case in the first innings, it was only momentarily. At 288 for 7 Karnataka failed to hold Rajasthan down, and this came down to a fine effort from Bist.
Overnight on 62, Bist shepherded his lower-order teammate, Pankaj Singh, in a defiant 46-run stand for the eighth wicket. First he laced two consecutive fours through the covers, off Vinay Kumar, before stealing a quick single off a misfield at midwicket. Pankaj lofted the last ball of the over for four as drinks were called for, and after a few words of advice from Bist, wisely decided to settle down.
Misfields and overthrows aided Bist's cause as he continued to find singles at the end of overs. A compact little batsman, with good hand-eye coordination, Bist played the quicks well off both front foot and back. Despite an initial crouch, he managed to ride the short-pitched stuff and cut the wide deliveries, again making sure to get over the ball when rolling his wrists. Elegant off the pads, he clipped runs though the yawning leg-side gaps. Unfazed by the mini-collapse, he motored along nicely into the nineties.
A few tense moments preceded his dismissal. On 97, he hooked Vinay Kumar perilously close to a stumbling fine leg, and then nearly played on to his off stump. Rather than refraining from playing horizontally to the short ball, Bist pulled another half-tracker and was snapped up by square leg. Enraged, he slammed his bat into the ground and stood alone for what seemed like an eternity before walking off in tears. He deserved a hundred for the way he batted.
|Robin Uthappa's fifty gave Karnataka a solid start, but at 118 for 3 and with an out-of-form line-up ahead, the favourites aren't looking so hot|
Frustratingly for Karnataka, they failed to settle the affair then and there. For over an hour with, drive after miss, edge after defiance, Pankaj and his captain, Mohammad Aslam, defied the favourites. With each leg before appeal turned down, and each shout of "Bahut Bhadiya, Pankaj" from the Rajasthan camp, the shoulders drooped. Pankaj grew in confidence and played some firm flicks and cuts.
Minutes after the lunch break Pankaj (40 from 80 balls) became Joshi's fifth victim bowled playing across the line, and the veteran left-arm spinner soon mopped up Aslam for 32. Joshi finished with 6 for 83, his 22nd Ranji Trophy five-or-more haul.
A few moments later Robin Uthappa and KB Pawan, Karnataka's openers, were out in the middle. There wasn't much bounce left in the surface but Pankaj beat both several times. Uthappa was the aggressive one and punched firm strokes either side of the pitch. The largest crowd of the match wasn't treated to any stunning fireworks, but Uthappa was at ease against Rajasthan. Offered room from Mohammad Aslam, he rocked back and cut through point to reach fifty off 90 balls but, playing back two deliveries later, was adjudged leg before.
Aslam failed to latch onto a tough catch to his left, off Sudhindra Shinde, but Jhalani made no mistake behind the stumps to hold onto an edge off Pawan's bat. Pawan had been in no hurry to score and, trying to withdraw his bat, nicked Sumit Mathur for 24 from 79 balls.
Shinde took three fours off Pankaj's last over, to cries of "We want sixer, we want sixer!" but fell playing an ungainly and utterly needless pull against offspinner Shamsher Singh, minutes before stumps, and was well taken by Aslam at midwicket. Karnataka need their batsmen to buckle down with a long day looming.
Jamie Alter is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo