Karnataka v UP, Ranji Trophy, 3rd quarter-final, 4th day, Bangalore January 11, 2014

Sixth straight win takes Karnataka to semis


Karnataka 349 (Uthappa 100, Nair 100, Gautam 100) and 204 (Rahul 92, Murtaza 6-64) beat Uttar Pradesh 221 for 9 dec (Parvinder 92, Mithun 4-70) and 240 (Chawla 44, Gopal 5-59, Mithun 3-71) by 92 runs

Experience. That is what Karnataka had and Uttar Pradesh lacked. Experience in batting, in bowling, in playing hard, in recovering from bad situations. A combination of all that today helped Vinay Kumar to lead Karnataka into their first semi-finals after two years.

278 runs was what UP needed when Tanmay Srivasatava and Ali Murtaza resumed on Saturday. Srivastava started confidently, taking seven runs off the first over from Abhimanyu Mithun when he pitched wide and short. In Mithun's third over, Murtaza rocked back in his crease to guide a short ball between the two point fielders for a boundary.

But the big question for UP was could they maintain a steady tempo throughout the chase? The answer came within half hour of play on Saturday morning. Vinay and Mithun had been feeding easy hit-me balls erring mostly on the shorter side, which the two UP left-handers took advantage of. But Vinay corrected his lengths.

Vinay switched to round the stumps for Srivastava and moved Robin Uthappa from silly mid-on to first slip and then bowled closer to the off stump, fuller and swung the ball away. Srivastava, who had been going for his strokes, edged and was picked safely by Manish Pandey at second slip.

Mohammad Kaif checked in and out as if he was picking a toll ticket, spooning an easy catch to Vinay at short cover. It was Kaif's second duck in the match. Srivastava, the acting captain after RP Singh was injured on the first afternoon, admitted the failure of Kaif this season was a major reason behind UP's batting failures this season. He was not pointing any fingers. The evidence is out there: four ducks and a highest score of 49 in 13 innings for the most senior and experienced player is plain embarrassing.

A streetsmart cricketer, Murtaza showed more resolve than any other batsman as he confronted both the bowlers and the constant talking of Karnataka fielders. Being from a state where chit-chat is part of the culture, Murtaza shot back and once even walked up to Uthappa, only to be separated by Karnataka players.

But before he was out in a comical circumstance, Murtaza had ruffled Karnataka. As soon as spin was introduced, Murtaza charged legspinner Shreyas Gopal off his first ball for a four over long-on. When Pandey pitched fuller on the off stump, Murtaza punched him behind square for another easy four.

However, Murtaza was defeated by his own excitement. He made his attacking intentions clear by charging once again against Gopal. But this time Gopal bowled short and straight. Murtaza was caught unaware and instead of trying to defend or hit the ball, he tried to return to his crease. He would have been embarrassed to realise his mistake as he was bowled. Karnataka and the home fans had a loud chuckle at Murtaza's expense.

"This kind of a situation will not come again. This is not a league match. We needed to be in the face of the opposition. Murtaza is not a specialist batsman but he was picking his balls cleverly. In this kind of wicket you cannot defend for long. You need to attack. Murtaza is basically a bowler. He had come to go after us. That was the only way to stop him getting runs. So we misguided him with some loose balls and bowling to his weakness and that worked for us," Vinay said, defending Karnataka's hard-ball tactics.

Piyush Chawla and Eklavya Dwivedi nearly proved Vinay wrong as they judiciously picked the balls to score some easy runs while remaining alert to the quirks of a weary and steadily breaking pitch. But UP's hopes were punctured soon when Dwivedi played a leg-side delivery from Mithun towards midwicket where an alert Vinay dived forward to take a spectacular catch inches from the ground.

That was the end of UP's resistance as Gopal finished his maiden five-for before Vinay sent Ankit Rajpoot's middle stump flying to seal Karnataka's win.

"We are dependent on just two or three players," Srivastava said. "Kaif bhai is one of our key players and he was down the entire season batting at No. 3. And we fell short in the batting department due to that."

Karnataka, who had five outright victories, the highest by any team during the league matches, would be happy they managed to live up to the favourites tag. But it was not a victory where they stamped their authority in convincing fashion. The fielding errors during UP's first innings were glaring. The top order continues to be brittle. Although Mithun finished as the Man of the Match, he was only effective in patches. And in the end it was Vinay's leadership that played a vital role in Karnataka not letting their guard down completely.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • GNANESHWAR on January 13, 2014, 5:53 GMT

    KL Rahul is a great prospect for india. He could be selected in the national team in the place of Rohit sharma who is wasting a place in the indian team for 6years.I don't know why the selectors are persisting with him.Give chance to those who perform well rather than giving rohit sharma so much of chances.

  • Dummy4 on January 12, 2014, 12:27 GMT

    For quarter finals Ranji trophy the neutral centres have been changed. Whether is follow suit for Finals too as Hyderabad team is not qualified. It is wishful thinking that the match is to be played in one of the centres that reaches Final.

  • Keralapur Raghavachar on January 11, 2014, 19:15 GMT

    Many Congratulations to all the members of Karnataka team, to all the support staff including Coach on reaching the Semis. My team for the semis: Mayank Agarwal, R, Uthappa, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, CM Gautam, Shreyas Gopal, Vinay Kumar*, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ronit More, HS Sharath** If HS Sharath is injured/not fit, then A.Kazi/S.Aravind/R.Samarth can replace him depending on the pitch conditions in Mohali. Go & get Ranji trophy this time, as all fans are waiting since 1998-99 (15 long years). It came very near in 2009-10 (5 years) back, it was so near, but yet so far, the trophy for 7th time remains elusive...

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2014, 17:56 GMT

    At last Karnataka has exorcised their UP demons. We lost two Ranji tournaments for no reason and this win has erased those memories. Karnataka now need to focus on the fielding and the annoying craze to pitch too short in the semis

  • Agnel on January 11, 2014, 17:42 GMT

    It is really sad that the readers havent remembered one great knock. Carrying the bat for 92 off the team total of 204, the young KL Rahul showed why he is a great talent coming up the junior ranks. Yes there were 3 exact centurions, some revival bowling by Mithun & team but the second innings great knock of this youngster was the clincher at the end. Go on lil wonder.

  • Himanshu on January 11, 2014, 17:16 GMT

    How did Karnataka win so many matches in a row with bowlers that have been doing poorly at the international stage for the last 5 or so years?

  • Android on January 11, 2014, 17:13 GMT

    go karnataka this time ranji trophy yurs no dowts ..comon robin one more cenchury in mohali..

  • shankar on January 11, 2014, 16:05 GMT

    Karnataka enters Semi-final...Great!!! although they managed to win against U.P through team work, I really feel the batsmen in particular in their heart of hearts know they let the team down by getting out playing some atrocious shots at crucial junctures, which enabled U.P to claw back into the match. They need to tighten their game even further against Punjab at Mohali, because they will be aware, in both the innings the top order collapsed in the first hour because of the moisture in the wicket and the winter nip in the air of Bangalore. Mohali will help fast bowlers even further. so Boys please tighten your game and no harm in being circumspect when the going is tough, we all know you are a champion side and we want to see you lifting the coveted trophy this time. praying Sharath will be fit for the match who I feel will represent India in near future and expect Mayank to play in middle order in place of injured Samarth.

  • Vivek on January 11, 2014, 16:01 GMT

    Vinay is really intelligent captain..he is the main reason for ktka's success.but i think gautham too need to be appreciated bcz the way he led the team in the absence of vinay was just awesome..he was thinking like ms does for india..so,its actually good for ktka that we have good skipper and his deputy..