TN hit back after folding for 134
Karnataka 45 for 4 (Balaji 3-10) trail Tamil Nadu 134 (Vinay 5-34) by 89 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
For the second time in as many weeks, the opening day of a major Ranji Trophy match saw the fall of a heap of wickets. Karnataka were involved in both but unlike the last week's semi-final against Mumbai, the defending champions were far from sitting on top at the end of day one at the Wankhede Stadium.
Karnataka elected to bowl first on a greenish track and bundled out Tamil Nadu for 134 in the first innings, before losing four top-order batsmen for just 45 runs. With Test opener KL Rahul having retired hurt following a left hamstring strain, Karnataka would be banking on Karun Nair and Abhimanyu Mithun, who came in as nightwatchman for the second match in succession, to stage a rescue act on the second day.
The opening day's script panned out much like Karnataka's semi-final. At Chinnaswamy, 21 wickets had fallen, besides Abhishek Nayar being absent out. Wankhede saw 14 batsmen perishing, in addition to Rahul retiring hurt on the season's liveliest wicket in Mumbai. Just like last week, Karnataka's star of the day was captain Vinay Kumar, who made optimum use of favourable conditions to record his third five-wicket haul of the season.
The only striking difference between the proceedings at Chinnaswamy and those at Wankhede was the approach of the batsmen. While Karnataka's batsmen remained positive and went for runs last week, their Tamil Nadu counterparts simply did not attempt to break the shackles, which resulted in them being bowled out for a total that might prove difficult to defend, especially in a five-day match.
Had it not been for L Balaji's inspiring burst with the new ball, Tamil Nadu may have been staring down the barrel at stumps. Balaji started the mini-collapse, with Karnataka losing three wickets in 13 balls. The collapse began a ball after Rahul, completing a single, returned to the dressing room after hurting his hamstring for the second time in the day. He had earlier done his hamstring while sliding to stop the ball near the boundary in the second session.
R Samarth, who opened the innings with Rahul since Robin Uthappa had to be rested after keeping wickets in the absence of CM Gautam, tried to leave one outside off, but the ball climbed on him and he edged it to Murali Vijay, who completed a low catch at second slip.
In the next over, left-armer Prasanth Parameswaran got Shishir Bhavane, who replaced Kunal Kapoor in the team, to nick one that moved away for Baba Indrajith to complete a clean catch at third slip. Balaji came back from the other end to force Uthappa, who came in at No 4, to chase a wide one for Indrajith to take his second catch in as many overs.
At 16 for 3, Manish Pandey and Nair had to see the day off. But Balaji forced Pandey into making a mistake 15 minutes before close - the batsman's attempted flick resulting in a top-edge to Baba Aparajith at covers, to leave Karnataka reeling at 31 for 4. Mithun then restored some parity with three cracking drives to help Karnataka end the day 89 runs behind TN's total.
But it was Vinay who emerged as the star of the day. The head of Karnataka's pace triumvirate, that has accounted for 116 wickets in the season coming into the game, led from the front again. With a green top greeting them, Karnataka bolstered their pace attack by including HS Sharath in place of Gautam, who failed the fitness test in the morning.
Mithun should have got the first breakthrough, but Pandey spilled Abhinav Mukund's catch at second slip when the Tamil Nadu captain was on 3. But in the seventh over, Vinay gave his team the prize scalp of M Vijay by getting the ball to jag back in and trap the India opener plumb in front.
In his next over, Vinay produced a peach of a delivery that came in and snaked through Aparajith's defence to hit the top of off stump. Tamil Nadu continued to lose wickets regularly thereon; Aswin Crist edged Vinay to the keeper 28 minutes after tea to get Vinay within two scalps of the season's leading wicket-taker Shardul Thakur's tally of 48.
None of Tamil Nadu's batsmen made an attempt to break the rhythm of the pace quartet, and that helped them stick to bowling in the channel of uncertainty. The ball of the day came from the man of the day in the second session.
Abhinav had survived for well over three hours after the early reprieve. And the Tamil Nadu captain got a ripper from his Karnataka counterpart. The ball was pitched way outside off and Abhinav shouldered arms only to see the ball shaping in sharply off the seam and crashing into the stumps.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo