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The Report by Karthik Krishnaswamy in Hubli
December 14, 2013
Karnataka 59 for 2 (Gony 2-20) trail Punjab 174 (Vohra 69, Appanna 3-29, Binny 3-62) by 115 runs
Manpreet Gony struck twice late in the afternoon, but the rest of the day went more or less exactly as Karnataka would have hoped as they ended on 59 for 2. They won the toss and bowled Punjab out for 174 on a pitch that played just as they expected it would.
Both teams had predicted it would help the seamers, and it did. But the bounce it offered, though steep, was consistent, and there was little sideways movement. It certainly wasn't as spiteful as Punjab made it look in losing seven wickets for 57 in the middle session, and their last nine for 68, after a 93-run second-wicket partnership between Manan Vohra and Uday Kaul.
The timing of Vohra and Kaul's dismissals was crucial too; both fell in the space of three balls, with less than four overs to go for lunch, and Karnataka could regroup.
J Arunkumar, Karnataka's batting coach, later said that his bowlers had been "attacking too much" in the first session. After lunch, he said, they decided to bowl wide of off stump and wait for mistakes from the batsmen.
Vinay Kumar, their captain, began the session with three straight maidens. At the other end, Abhimanyu Mithun got one to rear at Taruwar Kohli, who gloved it to gully.
Gurkeerat Singh stayed patient for a while, moving to 1 off 20 balls. The next three balls he faced, off HS Sharath, went like this: a flash-and-miss at a full, wide ball; an open-faced steer past gully for four; a repeat attempt that nestled in gully's hands. Punjab were 141 for 5. It became 151 for 6 when Gitansh Khera edged Stuart Binny to gully 7.2 overs later.
Mandeep Singh, who had come in before lunch, was still at the crease, but Punjab's lower-order didn't seem to notice. Sandeep Sharma was bowled trying to hit Binny across the line, Manpreet Gony lofted KP Appanna straight to long-off, and VRV Singh was stumped. Between them, numbers eight, nine and ten made 18 off 16 balls, with each of them striking a four. When debutant Vinay Choudhary edged Appanna to slip, Mandeep was left stranded on 32.
It hadn't been that long ago that Punjab were 106 for 1. Their openers, Vohra and Jiwanjot Singh, hadn't looked too discomfited by the conditions, and Karnataka's first breakthrough, in the sixth over of the morning, had nothing to do with the pitch. Vohra punched Mithun in front of point, and KL Rahul's throw to the keeper from the deep beat Jiwanjot as the batsmen ran a third.
Kaul, playing as a specialist batsman, now joined Vohra, just as the new-ball bowlers found their rhythm. Vinay, back after missing Karnataka's last three games, beat Vohra with a rising delivery in the corridor. Against Mithun, Kaul repeatedly dropped his bottom hand while defending off the back foot. On one occasion, the ball squeezed inches past a diving short-leg's outstretched left arm.
The pressure eased after Vinay brought Binny and Sharath on in a double-change. Punjab, who had been 25 for 1 after 10 overs, brought up 50 in the 16th. Binny explored a fuller length at one end - a sound idea on a bouncy pitch, but always liable to leak runs - while Sharath, angling across the left-handed Kaul, struggled to make him play. In the 20th over, Sharath's fifth, Kaul easily left the first five deliveries; the sixth, straighter, produced an inside-edge onto pad, but short-leg had been unoccupied for a while.
By this time, Vohra and Kaul had brought up their 50 partnership. Karnataka now switched Binny to the press box end. At the start of the third over of his new spell, Vohra steered Binny to the third man boundary to move his score to 65 and Punjab's to 102.
Vohra whipped the second ball of the over past midwicket for another four, and drove the third hard but straight to mid-off. If Binny meant to land the last ball of his over where it did - a wide tempter just short of a half-volley - he had read the surface and the batsman's intentions astutely. Vohra threw an angled bat at it, and the bounce carried his edge high to first slip's left; Rahul did well to react in time.
Rahul didn't react as quickly the first ball of the next over, which Kaul edged towards second slip, playing half-forward to Vinay. But Mayank Agarwal at first slip did, grabbing the ball as it bounced off his opening partner; Punjab were 106 for 3. A morning session that had been going entirely Punjab's way ended even.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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