Top order gives Punjab strong base
Punjab 278 for 4 (Kanwar 89, Goel 71, Sidhana 61*) v Karnataka
A placid track, an attack whose two best bowlers were on the flight to Australia, and the typically pleasant Bangalore winter combined to make it an agreeable day for Punjab's batsmen at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Sarul Kanwar, sporting his Mumbai Indians helmet, provided the entertainment in the morning session with a stroke-filled 89 before Karan Goel and Mayank Sidhana made more measured half-centuries to lift Punjab to 278 for 4.
Punjab's batsmen came into the game with plenty of confidence after piling on 597 against Rajasthan last week, including four centuries. Despite missing their highest run-getter of the season - Mandeep Singh who was ruled out with an ankle problem - the batting unit had few problems even in an away game against the table-toppers.
Kanwar signalled what lay in store for Karnataka by crisply off-driving their main threat, S Aravind, for four in the third over of the morning. NC Aiyappa was returning after three years on the sidelines but the track on his home ground provided little encouragement, hardly yielding any movement for the new-ball bowlers.
After Aravind's first spell was seen off, Punjab began to open out. Stuart Binny, fresh from a match-winning ten-wicket haul against Orissa, was greeted by Kanwar with a six over long-off. Kanwar then coolly lofted Aiyappa, Karnataka's quickest bowler, for a four to long-on, before pulling him for four more next ball. Even Ravi Inder Singh, a more conventional and cautious opener, drove Binny through covers for boundaries off successive deliveries.
The spinners KP Appanna and Sunil Raju hardly posed a threat early on, and Punjab cruised past 100, comfortably their best start in a season where their openers hadn't yet managed even a 50-run stand. When the openers were finally parted, it was through a run-out after a communication breakdown. Singh questioned his partner's call before dejectedly walking off, while Kanwar hit the ground with his bat in frustration.
Kanwar's mood improved when he was dropped by Raju on 74 - a simple overhead chance that Karnataka couldn't afford to miss in perfect batting conditions. Kanwar rubbed it in with a power-packed straight six followed by a slash past point for four off Appanna. A century seemed to be his for the taking, but he fluffed it in the final over before lunch, trapped lbw by Raju, who bowled with a casual amble to the crease. That over produced more chances than the entire first session - an edge towards slip, a near run-out and three lbw appeals, which buoyed Karnataka going into the break.
Punjab lost a third after lunch when Aiyappa got Uday Kaul to feather one to the keeper in the 47th over, but there was little joy for the home side after that as Goel and Sidhana put on an unhurried 107-run stand over the second half of the day. Goel had a few edges - one between the keeper and slip, and another past second slip but was solid otherwise against a flat attack.
Sidhana was more aggressive, showcasing his intentions by whacking part-time legspinner Amit Verma for an authoritative six over long-on and a cover-driven four in the same over. With Aravind going off the field with a knee injury, the batsmen had little to worry about, and Punjab sailed towards stumps with only three wickets down.
Aiyappa, though, returned for a final burst, and got one to squeeze through the defences of Goel two overs before close. It was a satisfactory day for Punjab, but their batsmen still have work to do against a side that has posted at least 500 in the first innings in each of their previous four first-class matches at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo