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January 4, 2012
How did Karnataka let Haryana, a surprise quarter-finalist, overwhelm them on their own turf inside three days? K Jeshwanth, the Karnataka coach, said it was primarily a batting failure that led to the six-wicket defeat, which secured Haryana their first semi-final berth since 1990-91.
Karnataka were dismissed for 151 in the first innings after they chose to bat. They lasted only 49.5 overs and were destroyed by 21 year-old Harshal Patel, who took 8 for 40. A medium-pacer playing his maiden season, Patel bowled with an upright wrist and seam, and got both movement and bounce from the first-day pitch, forcing edges from Karnataka's batsmen.
The score of 151 was Karnataka's lowest in completed innings this season. Before this game, Karnataka had four totals in excess of 500, two in excess of 600. Against Haryana, they didn't even make 300. The six-wicket loss was their first outright defeat.
"Obviously the batting," Jeshwanth said, when asked to explain the reason for defeat. "After making 151, it is difficult to come back. It was not a 150-run pitch. Harshal Patel bowled really well, putting the ball in the right areas. We did fight back - Binny bowled well and Aiyappa showed a lot of heart - but it was always going to be difficult. If we had scored 250 in the first innings - like we did in the second - we would have been able to make a match out of it."
Karnataka had been below full strength for significant parts of the season and Jeshwanth said that had impacted their campaign. Their original new-ball bowlers, Vinay Kumar (also the captain) and Abhimanyu Mithun, were in Australia with the Test squad. Manish Pandey, who hit an unbeaten double century against Mumbai, suffered from hernia. S Aravind, the third quick, was advised four weeks after the penultimate group match because of a knee injury.
"The season - Manish Pandey's absence made a difference to our batting, and three bowlers were also missing," Jeshwanth said. "We had expected to reach the final, so it is a disappointment. Haryana is a team we were supposed to beat. We were also unlucky in this match; everything our batsmen missed took the edge.
"The problem was with the batsmen getting out after getting set. We thought we had overcome it when we crossed 500 in the last match (against Uttar Pradesh)." In Shimoga, after conceding the first-innings lead to UP, the Karnataka middle order comprising Ganesh Satish, Amit Verma and Stuart Binny converted their starts into big hundreds. Against Haryana, they did not manage even a fifty.
The other problem for Karnataka was their batsmen's inability to convert starts. Robin Uthappa, Karnataka's top scorer, failed to anchor both innings. On Monday, after the first drinks break, Uthappa was caught off a ball that pitched marginally outside off stump and angled away from him. In the second innings, after he had hit an aggressive fifty, Uthappa played across to a delivery that nipped back in to trap him lbw. On the third day, Binny gave it away by holing out to mid-on while attempting an ambitious loft.
Amit Mishra, the Haryana captain, was pleased to cash in on Karnataka's weakness. "At the end of day two the match was evenly poised. But we knew that the pressure was on Karnataka to not lose wickets quickly, but at the same time score runs in quick time," he said. "So our aim was always not give away any easy runs and we stuck to our plan. We were confident of chasing down any target between 150-170 and we eventually managed to do that."
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