Pandey and Rahul punish Punjab
Karnataka 367 for 7 (Pandey 161, Rahul 92, Gony 3-70) lead Punjab 174 by 193 runs
Manish Pandey scored his second century of the season and KL Rahul was out in the nineties for the second time in the season as Karnataka took a 193-run lead with three wickets in hand. By the time Pandey was bowled late in the day by a delivery that stayed low, his 161 had made a Punjab win nearly unthinkable.
With two days remaining, Punjab will need a far better effort from their batsmen in the second innings - they were bowled out for 174 in the first - if they are to take any points from the game.
For the second day running, the sun beat down through a cloudless sky, and the spectators surveyed a glowing outfield through crinkled eyes. A pitch that had helped the quicker bowlers on the first day was easing into one full of runs.
The contrast between the two innings, though, had more to do with the batting approaches of the two sides than with the conditions. None of the Punjab batsmen, for instance, had shown the sort of patience Rahul did late on day one, in going to stumps on 22 from 74 balls. He had left well outside off stump, and played the drive only when the ball was pitched right up, with an elegantly abbreviated follow-through.
He played two such drives in the third over of the day, one through cover and one down the ground, off Sandeep Sharma, and the two boundaries seemed to loosen his concentration momentarily, as he hung his bat outside off at the last ball of the over. The edge, however, dropped short of second slip. In the previous over, Gony had appealed unsuccessfully for lbw after getting one to keep low at Pandey.
Those were the only two moments when Punjab came close in the morning session, which ended with Karnataka 166 for 2. After Gony's first spell of five overs, none of the bowlers looked threatening. Rahul took a liking to Taruwar Kohli's medium-pace, and drove him straight to bring up Karnataka's 100 and between point and cover to bring up his third half-century of the season.
Pandey, who began the day quietly, burst into life by launching Sandeep over the long-off boundary, and repeatedly pulled him off the front foot, with his bat typically pointing skywards. He was watchful against spin, scoring just seven off 35 balls before lunch from debutant left-arm spinner Vinay Choudhary. He didn't try to change gears even when he was stuck on 49 for 10 balls.
This restraint didn't last too long, though. Pandey threw his hands out at the first ball he faced after lunch, from part-time offspinner Gurkeerat Singh, and edged thickly, but Mandeep Singh failed to cling on at slip. Pandey was on 59.
In Gurkeerat's next over, Rahul missed a sweep, and the ball struck wicketkeeper Gitansh Khera's shoulder and bounced onto the stumps. The third umpire took his time poring over replays before ruling that Rahul's foot had slid out of the crease. By this time, his 159-run partnership with Pandey had taken Karnataka past Punjab's 174.
CM Gautam was lbw to VRV Singh soon after, but Pandey continued to swell Karnataka's lead while dominating partnerships of 52 and 68 with Stuart Binny and debutant Karun Nair. He moved into the nineties with a straight six off Choudhary and whipped the next ball wide of mid-on to go to 97. The next ball he faced, from Gurkeerat, cleared the sightscreen at the press box end. His second 50 had taken him just 70 balls. That run-spurt had come at just the right time, to knock the life out of Punjab's bowlers just after they had struck two quick blows.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo