Parthiv 83 keeps Gujarat in hunt
Gujarat 216 for 5 (Parthiv 83, Mithun 2-52) trail Karnataka 306 (Satish 75*, Dhurv 4-83) by 90 runs
Whether it's a sign of the demands of the modern game, the state of pitches in general or the nature of the contests, depth in a batting line-up is suddenly becoming a key factor for most teams. The lower order is expected to score runs and prepare accordingly for it, and tight scraps, such as the one between Karnataka and Gujarat at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, bring these skills into even greater focus.
Gujarat will have their batting depth tested on the third morning as they seek to erase the deficit of 90 runs. For Karnataka, it was Ganesh Satish who gave a demonstration of his focus in his new role for the side at No. 7.
Satish, and No. 11 batsman S Aravind, added 56 runs off 57 balls in a last-wicket stand that took Karnataka past 300, and may yet prove crucial to the outcome of this match. In the first match against Jharkhand, Satish came in with the side trailing by more than a 100 runs and stayed until Karnataka had established a small lead. Here, stranded at one end, he had to drag Karnataka from 250 for 9 to the relative safety of 300.
In the early overs of the day, he let overnight batsman, Abhimanyu Mithun, keep the strike. But once Mithun and KP Appanna were dismissed, Satish took charge. He guarded S Aravind from the Gujarat bowlers, and hit fours regularly to ensure that Karnataka weren't stuck in a defensive mire.
The Karnataka pacers were more attacking than their Gujarat counterparts and that got them two early wickets - opener Smit Patel bowled through the gate for 8, and the dangerous Manpreet Juneja losing his off stump to a Mithun delivery. It also meant that Parthiv Patel was free to smack balls through the off side whenever the Karnataka bowlers erred.
At the other end, opener Samit Gohel resisted temptation to imitate his captain by playing the defensive foil. Together, Parthiv and Gohel added 104 for the third wicket before Karnataka's sole spinner, Appanna, had Gohel trapped lbw.
Parthiv was dismissed shortly after tea for 83, his second consecutive fifty and his third fifty-plus score in four innings. Then, Venugopal Rao and Bhargav Merai struck a cautious partnership of 38 runs before Rao's unnecessary slash outside the off stump meant that Gujarat will be without their senior batsman on a crucial morning.
Karnataka's bowlers were impressive, especially Mithun and Aravind. Mithun found good bounce and hit a troubling line well into the final session, while Aravind was consistent in his lengths in the short bursts that he bowled.
Rakesh Dhurv wasn't too perturbed by Karnataka's last wicket resistance, brushing it off as one of those things that "happens in cricket" but he also expressed confidence over his team's lower-order batting. "If you see the games against Vidarbha and Delhi, Gujarat's last three-wicket stands have added nearly 100 runs," Dhurv said, while adding that the pitch was not impossible to bat on, even though it assisted the seam bowlers.
A mainstay of the Karnataka middle-order, Satish said his new role lower down in the middle order was a challenging one. "I have to play in different situations. It keeps me more focused," the batsman said.
Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo