Raju turns it on for Karnataka
Karnataka 63 for 3 (Dravid 27*, Raghu 16*) trail Baroda 169 (Solanki 53, Raju 4-30) by 106 runs
Thirteen wickets fell on a spicy pitch before rain brought an early end to an interesting opening day's play at the RSI Ground in Bangalore. Baroda were rolled over for 169 as the offspinner Sunil Raju grabbed his best first-class figures. Karnataka wobbled at the start before Rahul Dravid and rain ensured they would end the day as the happier team.
A ground ringed by trees, a old army club house which has seen better days, the sun playing hide and seek through the day, and little girls in bright colourful frocks swaying on swings beside the boundary, combined to form a charming setting for the game.
"It's a five-point pitch," a Karnataka player said. Historically, when the hosts need points, they usually hop over to this ground to get a result. It was by no means a devil of a pitch but the red soil sprinkled on the top to bind the pitch allowed enough seam movement with the new ball. And while there was bounce for the pacers, the spinners had their share of turn as well.
The seamers - Vinay Kumar and NC Aiyappa - started the damage after Karnataka chose to bowl. Vinay bent one across the left-handed Connor Williams to knock out the off stump and Aiyappa induced a thick edge from Azharuddin Bilakhia, which was taken smartly by the diving keeper Thilak Naidu. Satyajit Parab, the opener, then attempted the repair job with well-timed strokes down the ground, especially against Aiyappa.
It was an interesting contest with the bowler - two short of 100 first-class wickets - who kept it full, as Parab went for his drives. The team fifty came up in 10.2 overs and soon after Aiyappa finished his spell, Parab fell in the opening over of first-change bowler B Akhil. Eyeing the space in the midwicket region, Parab tried to wrist a chest-high delivery from outside off, only to spoon a dolly back to the bowler.
Rakesh Solanki, though, kept the fight on with a half-century. He favoured the on side, repeatedly flicking deliveries through midwicket and when the bowlers shortened the length, he cut over point.
However, the offspinner Sunil Raju, who replaced the left-armer K Appanna to counter the left-handed batsmen of Baroda, removed Solanki to trigger a collapse. Solanki didn't connect with a sweep and the ball bobbed up to silly point. Raju struck again the next ball, inducing Ketan Panchal to nick to the keeper. Sunil Joshi and C Raghu too added to their wicket tally and though, Utkarsh Patel threw his bat around for a breezy 26, Baroda folded for 169.
Baroda did fight back with the ball, reducing Karnataka to 24 for 3 before Rahul Dravid and C Raghu settled the dressing room nerves with an assured partnership. It was the debutant Ajitesh Argal, the opening bowler in the India Under-19's victorious campaign, who did the damage for Baroda by removing the openers.
Interestingly, just before he stepped on to the ground, he sprayed some perfume on himself and ended up spraying his first two deliveries down the leg side. The third delivery was on the stumps, full and nipped back in to trap KB Pawan. He also got the wicket of Robin Uthappa, who punched a short-of-length delivery on the up but straight to short wide mid-off.
And Manish Pandey, who looked good in his brief stay, fell poking to Salim Veragi but Dravid asserted himself on the proceedings. He started off with a cover-driven boundary off his first ball and flicked Argal for two more fours before the skies opened up. Still, if Baroda can prise out Dravid early tomorrow, the game will be split open again.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo