Karnataka v Punjab, Ranji Trophy, Group A, Hubli, 3rd day December 16, 2013

Vinay ton leaves Punjab battling for survival

The Report by Karthik Krishnaswamy in Hubli

Punjab 174 and 156 for 5 (Gurkeerat 56*) trail Karnataka 505 for 9 dec (Pandey 161, Vinay 105*, Rahul 92) by 175 runs
Scorecard

In the morning, Punjab had watched him score an unbeaten 105 against their tiring attack and extend Karnataka's lead to 331. Deep in the final session, just when they hoped they could see out the day with a pair of set batsmen at the crease, Vinay Kumar returned to uproot Taruwar Kohli's off stump.

The fifth-wicket partnership between Taruwar and Gurkeerat Singh had only been the second in both Punjab innings to last over 100 balls. In the morning, Vinay had spent 148 balls in the company of last man HS Sharath before declaring Karnataka's innings at 505 for 9.

Gurkeerat played a few defiant strokes late in the day - a square cut off Vinay, and drives for four either side of cover off successive deliveries from Stuart Binny - to stay unbeaten on 56 but Punjab remained deep in trouble, five down and 175 behind.

Karnataka's first wicket came from a brilliant bit of fielding in the sixth over. Manan Vohra cut HS Sharath hard and faultlessly, from the coaching manual's perspective. He had got on top of the bounce and the ball was inches from the ground when Ganesh Satish - crouched close to the bat at an unorthodox short point - got his right hand under it.

Satish was the catcher again, three overs later, when an effort ball from Abhimanyu Mithun found Uday Kaul late on a pull. Kaul was less than halfway into his stroke when the ball hit him high on the bat and popped to short leg. Punjab were 21 for 2 after 8.1 overs.

Mandeep Singh had watched a number of his team-mates throw their wickets away in Punjab's first innings as he finished unbeaten on 32. Now, it was his turn to play an injudicious stroke. On 12, he chased a full, wide ball and edged Mithun to wicketkeeper CM Gautam, who held on after a juggle.

Punjab went to tea 68 for 3, with opener Jiwanjot Singh on 32. Jiwanjot, who was coming off a double-century against Vidarbha, had looked entirely at ease, and had struck six fours, including two effortless flicks off Mithun in one over. Perhaps he, Punjab must have thought, could bat them out of this hole.

He couldn't. Jiwanjot hadn't added any runs to his score when Mithun, running in to start the fourth over after tea, got one to jag back and trap him LBW.

The pitch still looked good to bat on. Left-arm spinner KP Appanna got one to bounce extra and had a caught-behind appeal turned down off Taruwar, and Gurkeerat pulled his bat out of the way as Sharath got one to lift off the seam, but such moments were rare, and both batsmen looked largely untroubled before Vinay struck late in the day.

Vinay, on 29 overnight, had started the day full of aggressive strokes, a particular highlight being a backfoot punch in front of point off Sandeep Sharma the ball after he'd brought up his half-century. After Mithun's dismissal, Appanna batted in the same manner before he was out for a 46-ball 45.

After that, Punjab spread their fields against Vinay, often stationing six men on the rope for him. Vinay kept refusing singles early in the over, even though last man HS Sharath didn't look troubled when he did get the strike, and even though Karnataka's lead had ballooned beyond 300.

It went on in this manner till Vinay flicked a single to deep square leg off VRV Singh to reach his maiden first-class century. His previous best had been 61. Lunch, and the declaration, came a few minutes later. The respite for Punjab didn't.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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