Vinay defends defensive tactics
At times during the second session on the fourth day, it seemed as if Maharashtra, and not Karnataka, were the team with the 210-run first-innings lead. Someone would bowl - it didn't matter who it was, specialist or part-timer - and the batsman - it didn't matter if it was Kedar Jadhav or Ankit Bawne - would stroll down the pitch and work the ball either side of the pitch for a walked single to a deep fielder. There were, at times, as many as seven deep fielders to choose from.
"Hopefully you might have watched the game," said Vinay Kumar, Karnataka's captain, when asked about his team's tactics. "It's a four-day game. The last four days it was very difficult for batsmen to get runs. That's why, wherever they could get boundaries, we put the fielders back so that they could get as less runs as possible."
Karnataka didn't quite succeed in restricting Maharashtra, who scored 272 runs in 68 overs, at exactly four runs an over. On the third day, Karnataka scored 244 in 90 overs.
"What are you trying to say?" Vinay said, when these numbers were put in front of him. "I know what you said but you want to say we play badly or they played well? They didn't have anything to lose. They just went and, if we had been in their position we would have thrown our bat from ball one, right? That's what they did and we're very happy that we got six wickets."
Maharashtra didn't exactly throw their bats at the ball. Vijay Zol did, initially, and only when the ball was in the slot, when Karnataka's seamers started with conventional fields. But each time a Maharashtra batsman played an aggressive shot, a fielder left the slip cordon, and often dropped back to the boundary. Pretty soon, especially when Jadhav and Bawne were together at the crease, singles were there for the taking, and Maharashtra's batsmen kept taking them.
Even so, Maharashtra were too far behind in the match to really turn things around. And they gave away four wickets in the post-tea session, two of them to full-tosses. Those two full-tosses gave Vinay his 299th and 300th first-class wickets. By the end of the day, with Maharashtra six down and only 62 ahead, it looked like Karnataka's tactics had worked.
"We want to give as less runs as possible," Vinay said, when asked how his team would approach the final day. "Because tomorrow morning they need to face more overs to get those 150 or 200 runs. If we bowl 15-20 overs tomorrow morning and restrict their lead to 200 runs then they'll get less overs and they'll try really hard to get us. In this wicket if you try too much it's very easy for batsman to get runs. That was the thought behind that."
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor in ESPNcricinfo