Karnataka v Uttar Pradesh, Ranji Trophy Elite, Shimoga

Karnataka rally after Kaif masterclass

The Report by Nitin Sundar in Shimoga

December 23, 2011

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Karnataka 158 for 2 (Satish 70*, Verma 46*) and 314 lead Uttar Pradesh 419 (Kaif 152, Amir Khan 67, Bhuvneshwar 56, Raju 3-43, Aiyappa 3-92) by 53 runs

Mohammad Kaif's 152 gave Uttar Pradesh the lead, Karnataka v Uttar Pradesh, Ranji Trophy Elite, Shimoga, 3rd day, December 23, 2011
Mohammad Kaif's 152 put Uttar Pradesh in pole position, but Karnataka clawed towards safety © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Mohammad Kaif's masterclass continued into the third morning in Shimoga, propelling Uttar Pradesh to a dominant lead before Karnataka fought back to move towards parity by stumps. Nothing short of an outright win will put UP in the quarter-finals, but Karnataka captain Ganesh Satish's half-century in the second innings makes a draw the most likely result. Satish's shepherding effort was well supported by Amit Verma, who was on 46. Their chalk-and-cheese association yielded an unbroken 91 and quelled UP's ascendancy after Kaif's imposing 152.

The seeds for UP's strong start to the day were sown in the first hour of play. Kaif's defiance in that passage ensured UP's lower order didn't flounder like Karnataka's had on the second day, before they gradually accelerated. SL Akshay and Stuart Binny began the day's proceedings with a still new ball, ahead of the spearhead NC Aiyappa. Kaif stonewalled efficiently for five overs before driving Binny down the ground for a four. Aiyappa duly replaced Binny and the breakthrough came immediately, when Bhuvneshwar Kumar lost patience and jabbed at a wide ball. Karnataka sensed a quick finish and probed away with intent. No. 9 Amir Khan edged and missed frequently as Aiyappa bowled his best spell of the match, but Kaif was unshakeable.

It took a couple of edged boundaries from Amir to take UP past 300 in the 12th over of the day, after having started the day only 24 short of the mark. Kaif celebrated by lacing Aiyappa through mid-off - the first shot of authority against him - and lofting KP Appanna in his first over for four. UP took the lead in the next over, and shifted gears rapidly.

Kaif offered an opening when he mishit a carve over extra cover, but the substitute fielder Krishnappa Gautham reacted late. Kaif made Karnataka pay with a bunch of late cuts, assured steers and smooth drives. The confidence wore off on Amir, who slugged Appanna for a six over midwicket, before plundering Amit Verma for boundaries. The 100-run stand came in just 80 minutes, off 118 balls, before Kaif edged Sunil Raju to slip. Karnataka wrapped up the innings within five overs of Kaif's departure, highlighting just how effectively he had stalled them.

Karnataka were hampered at the outset of their reply, with Robin Uthappa unable to open after sitting out for a considerable chunk of UP's innings with a thigh strain. The make-shift opener Bharat Chipli couldn't make a dent, edging RP Singh into the cordon in the third over. Karnataka wisely chose caution thereafter, with both RP Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar hitting the right lengths on this pitch. The shackles loosened only when the more benign Imtiyaz Ahmed came on at first change for the 12th over. Ganesh Satish welcomed him with a brace of straight boundaries, and KB Pawan square-drove him for four more. Piyush Chawla replaced RP Singh in the next over, and UP's intensity evaporated on the back of his poor control, as he struggled to bowl a consistent length.

The next breach came against the run of play. Pawan, who had punched the previous ball to the point boundary, edged a repeat of the shot into the slips, with Karnataka still 33 in arrears. UP tried hard for more breakthroughs when Karnataka were still behind, but Amit Verma responded in kind, pasting Chawla for straight boundaries in the lead-up to tea. The visitors edged ahead in the sixth over of the evening, and Satish reached his half-century by shredding Chawla through point. Verma looted two more fours in the same over as, like UP earlier in the day, Karnataka accelerated after wiping out the deficit.

Suresh Raina, the UP captain, said the final day would be a "real test of character and fitness" for his side. "There are 90 overs to go, and we need those eight wickets quickly," Raina told ESPNcricinfo. "We will know how it is going to end after the first session. We need our bowlers to take responsibility. I am confident about RP [Singh], Bhuvan [Bhuvaneshwar Kumar] and Imtiyaz Ahmed standing up, but a bit worried about Piyush Chawla since he couldn't maintain pressure today. But he has experience, and will surely bounce back."

Raina was satisfied with his side's performance so far in the season, but rued the home defeat to Railways - a game he missed due to international duty - that has put them in a must-win situation now. "Still, I hope that doesn't cost us a quarter-final spot," he said.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (December 24, 2011, 10:50 GMT)

I always thought that Kaif was harshly treated by the selectors especially in the test match arena. Lets hope he will get his chance soon, possibly at number 5.

Posted by   on (December 24, 2011, 7:50 GMT)

Yes Mr Kaif keep knocking the selectors door and we need some more big scores if you want to convince the selectors. It is very difficult for you to make a comeback as we have the youngsters like Raina, Kohli and Rohit. May be after the retirement of Dravid and Tendulkar you can find the slot. Wish you good luck.

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Nitin Sundar Social media manager Nitin spent his formative years perfecting the art of landing the googly, before blossoming into a book-cricket specialist. More excellence followed in the underarm version of the game before, like the majority of India's misguided youth, he started taking studies seriously. After four forgettable years of electrical engineering, followed by a rigorous MBA and 16 months in the strategy consulting industry, he began to ponder life's more profound issues. Such as the angle made by Brian Lara's bat with the horizontal at the peak of his back-lift. A move to ESPNcricinfo followed and Nitin is now a prolific nurdler in office cricket, with a questionable technique against the short ball.
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