Aravind, Suchith bowl Karnataka to first-innings lead
Karnataka 350 & 93 for 1 (Uthappa 46) lead Vidarbha 310 (Badrinath 92, Satish 81, Jaffer 68, Aravind 4-46, Suchith 4-51) by 133 runs
Karnataka have in the last two years as Ranji Trophy champions amply displayed the khadoos that has been the defining feature of Mumbai's 40 title conquests. You could see that again in this game, in the fielders hurling themselves at the ball even when the going was tough, in the fast bowlers repeatedly flinging themselves at the crease despite little assistance from the surface.
Take for example left-arm seamer S Aravind's opening spell on the third morning. Accompanied by some hustling fielding, it was quite a demonstration of Karnataka's version of khadoos: cricket with flair and abundant mongrel. Aravind's burst yielded figures of 5-4-1-3 which, despite Vidarbha captain S Badrinath's (92 off 216 balls) stubborn resistance for five hours, set the tone for Karnataka's 40-run first-innings advantage.
Left-arm spinner J Suchith, in only his fourth first-class game, finished with a four-for, making two crucial strikes - including that of Badrinath - in an over to derail Vidarbha's innings. Karnataka's second innings seemed to serve as good batting practice for KL Rahul ahead of the South Africa series, as a drab draw appears inevitable save for a dramatic collapse.
In the morning, Aravind took only two deliveries to dislodge a batsman Karnataka couldn't remove for over five hours on Friday. Ganesh Satish, a member of the title-winning Karnataka side in 2013-14, poked at one that straightened after pitching. Four balls later, Aditya Shanware, who had made a century on debut two games ago, edged one behind where CM Gautam, who was taking blinders at practice before the start of play, dived low to his right and emerged with the ball.
Six overs later, the Aravind-Gautam combine was in business again, after another delivery held its line and Gautam put in another dive to his right to send back Shalabh Shrivastava. This was looking way too easy; Aravind would just run in from round the stumps - his preferred angle of operation for the major part of the innings - and alternate between the one that cut back in sharply with the angle and the one that held its line.
Badrinath, however, seemed to have worked out a way to quell Aravind's threat. He decisively strode forward and across, away from the off stump, and stayed low to counter the movement either way. Runs were gathered from the other end, as neither Abhimanyu Mithun nor Vinay Kumar was as effective as Aravind. Badrinath also had good company from Jitesh Sharma, who, cast in the spunky wicketkeeper-batsman mould, attacked fearlessly. In fact, after the new ball was taken, Mithun was taken for 23 runs in his four overs.
Their partnership had yielded 61 runs in quick time, and looked good for more when Jitesh's back-foot punch off Suchith flew quickly to first slip, where Vinay took a fine reflex catch. Vinay was in action again just before lunch, as he made a one-handed grab to dismiss Shrikant Wagh after he edged legspinner Shreyas Gopal.
Vidarbha, resuming after lunch still 82 runs in arrears, were still in the fight as Badrinath found another doughty ally in Akshay Wakhare. While Badrinath was bringing out some wristy drives and clever dabs, Wakhare managed to put the bad balls away, and a 40-run stand ensued. An hour after lunch, at 310 for 7 with Badrinath still there, Vidarbha looked threatening.
However, Suchith had Badrinath caught behind, and four balls later trapped Swapnil Bandiwar in front before Aravind came back to induce an edge off Wakhare to give Gautam his fifth catch of the innings.
Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo