Gujarat's young bowlers restrict Karnataka
Karnataka 226 for 7 (Kapoor 57, Agarwal 42) v Gujarat
A young Gujarat attack played within its limitations to stifle and frustrate a strong Karnataka batting line-up that would be disappointed at its overall performance, given that the top order had done much of the ground work in a challenging first session.
Gujarat won the toss and chose to bowl on a track tinged with green, making two changes - dropping offspinner Jesal Karia and left-arm pacer Rush Kalaria for right-arm pacers Mehul Patel and Krushang Patel. The two of them, along with seamer Jasprit Bumrah, worked to a plan of bowling outside the off stump, playing on the patience of a line-up loaded with stroke-players.
"The pitch was doing something and there was movement early on, so we planned to bowl that line and make use of the conditions," Bumrah said after the day's play.
KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal started cautiously but Rahul capitalised on anything loose, scoring a couple of fours on the on side. Agarwal was quiet at the start, scoring 9 off 48 in the first hour of play, but he started playing his shots in the second hour, taking a four square of the wicket off Kushang Patel, with a stance a few inches outside the crease.
Agarwal was particularly aggressive towards Bumrah, hitting a cover drive off the bowler in the 21st over to bring up Karnataka's 50 and then hitting three fours off him in the 25th over. Between them, the pair brought up their second successive fifty-plus opening stand and, more importantly, saw off the most difficult period of play.
The introduction of spin led to the first wicket, Rakesh Dhurv enticing Agarwal out of his crease. The batsman, looking good on 42, tried to hit over the on side only to hole out to mid-on.
At 93 for 1 and going into lunch, Karnataka's batsmen were expected to capitalise on a solid start. The second session, however, saw them get out to a few rash shots, even as Gujarat's bowlers, particularly Mehul and Akshar Patel, stuck to their plans.
An armball from Akshar Patel dismissed Rahul, who got an inside edge on to the pad and was caught at forward short leg. Manish Pandey began well, getting off the mark with a six down the ground, but two overs later, lobbed a return catch back to Mehul Patel, who had to dive forward.
CM Gautam, Karnataka's highest run-scorer last season, was trapped in front by Dhurv for 8 and Stuart Binny was bowled by Bumrah for 4.
The big setback for Karnataka, however, came in the final session, when Kunal Kapoor, who had until then played a dour 57, was caught behind. The batsman, who scored his first fifty for Karnataka after registering twin hundreds last season, had held one end steady. He had started off with a couple of fours, but settled well into the anchor's role, rotating the strike and winning the battle of patience with Gujarat's bowlers.
His wicket brought Vinay Kumar to the crease, who combined well with Ganesh Satish for a busy 44-run stand, before Vinay was dismissed by Bumrah for 22. Satish, who came in at No. 7, like the last game against Jharkhand, pushed the scoring rate along and hit a brace of fours to finish the day unbeaten on 36.
Kapoor, the only half-centurion for the side on the first day, said that 300 would be a good total on the pitch as the home side's bowlers would look to bowl a more aggressive line and get the Gujarat batsmen to play. He also admitted that the Karnataka batsmen could have been more circumspect.
"We have a lot of strokeplayers and they bowled a line that tested our patience," he said. "As we weren't getting too many runs off the pacers, we tried to hit the spinners and lost a few wickets in the process."
Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo