Kaif, Bhuvneshwar keep UP in hunt for lead
Uttar Pradesh 276 for 6 (Kaif 101*, Bhuvneshwar 52*) trail Karnataka 314 (Binny 94, Chipli 51, Bhuvneshwar 5-84, Imtiyaz 3-80) by 38 runs
The second day's play in Shimoga followed the course of the first, as Uttar Pradesh mirrored Karnataka's batting effort to finish 39 runs short of the first-innings lead, with four wickets standing. Like their Karnataka counterparts on day one, UP built a solid base in the morning, only to lose wickets in a clump in the lead-up to tea. Like Stuart Binny on the first day, Mohammad Kaif battled through the slump, before stalling it with a dogged seventh-wicket stand. Kaif's rearguard effort yielded a century, and coupled with Bhuvneshwar Kumar's compelling all-round show, gave UP the bragging rights. However, Saurashtra's dominant position in Delhi means UP will need more than first-innings points to make the quarters.
Bhuvneshwar set up UP's dominance with a quick demolition of the Karnataka tail, even before the platforms around the ground filled up in the morning. SL Akshay edged his first ball of the day, in Bhuvneshwar's opening over, into the slips. In Bhuvneshwar's next over, Stuart Binny fell six short of his third century of the season, edging a loose drive to present Raina with his fourth catch. Bhuvneshwar struck for the third time in three overs and completed his sixth first-class five-for when he trapped No. 11 NC Aiyappa in front.
Like UP on the first morning, Karnataka erred on the fuller side, allowing the portly Mukul Dagar to impose himself. He began by punching Aiyappa down the ground, and took Akshay for a brace of fours through the off side. Respite came at the other end, when Tanmay Srivastava nicked a full Aiyappa delivery to Bharat Chipli at third slip. Kaif strode out at No. 3, and laced his second ball through the covers with a gorgeous forward press. Aiyappa hustled him with short balls aimed at the body, and Kaif responded by hopping back and fending unconvincingly. Binny, who replaced Akshay, also troubled Kaif early with probing length balls. Kaif edged once and missed once, before buckling down to wait for mistakes. They came soon - two half-trackers from Binny that sat up and were duly thrashed through midwicket. Kaif was away, and scarcely faced another worry until he was in the 90s.
Amit Verma's part-time legbreaks earned Karnataka their second breach, when Dagar offered Chipli a one-handed grab at short leg. Parvinder Singh then sparkled in the first hour after lunch as UP reclaimed the ascendancy. He brought up the team's 100 by coaxing Appanna through the covers, and repeated the dose when Binny over-pitched in search of swing. Parvinder was about to overdo the aggression, though.
In the 42nd over of the innings, he skipped out to heave Binny for a straight six. He steered the next ball behind point for four, played out a dot ball and then unfurled a sumptuous drive to bring up the 50-run stand. He left the next ball alone, but tried to power the last delivery over extra cover. Binny had shortened the length, though, and produced a swirling outside edge that Appanna pouched as he scrambled in from third man.
Suresh Raina checked in with two boundaries, before defending a full ball with such soft hands that it rolled back onto the stumps. Arish Alam played back and edged Akshay behind, before Piyush Chawla fell to a miscued cut as UP lost 4 for 34 in 63 balls. Kaif had scored only 10 runs through that phase, quietly inching past 50, but launched an attractive sortie immediately after Chawla's exit. He quelled Karnataka's surge by drilling Akshay twice through mid-off, and cutting Appanna past the slips for boundaries. Bhuvneshwar teed off with a square-driven four as UP went to tea at 195 for 6.
Karnataka's intent seemingly wore off after the break, with Bhuvneshwar comfortable against Appanna, and Kaif repeatedly stepping out to neuter his flight. The session became attritional as Binny and Sunil Raju plugged away while Karnataka awaited the new ball. Kaif and Bhuvneshwar mostly scored in singles, before taking boundaries off Raju in the 78th over to close in on their milestones. The century seemed to be on Kaif's mind, as he edged Aiyappa short of the wicketkeeper, and attempted a risky single to reach 96. He completed the ton in the last over of play, but Kaif and Bhuvneshwar have a crucial first session ahead of them on the third morning.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo