Karnataka escape, with Goud on their side
3rd day Rajasthan 393 and 0 for 0 lead Karnataka 329 (Goud 110*, Shamsher 4-79, Aslam 4-91) by 64 runs
Yere Goud was hardly the name you would have expected to hear chanted at the Gangothri Glades in Mysore, given that many in the partisan crowd had come to see a reprise of Robin Uthappa's brisk century last season. Yet after his unbeaten 110 and a last-wicket stand with the determined NC Aiyappa to avoid the follow-on and post a healthy, unlikely, 329, Goud was the one they were cheering for.
Goud walked in at 155 for 5 and soon saw three wickets fall for 36 runs; a fourth fell at 208, still 36 runs short of the target to avoid the follow-on. Yet while his younger team-mates came and went, Goud called on all his experience and gave Karnataka reason to smile after two and a half days of catch-up cricket against Rajasthan. Though Rajasthan did take crucial first-innings lead points and dominated the first half of the third day, they were seriously tested by Goud's perseverance.
In a south Indian version of The Great Escape, Goud, 36, did his best to move the score along after a post-lunch collapse with a six, followed by some paddles and powerful sweeps. After gauging the pitch, the attack and his partner's abilities, Goud opened up with some exciting shots. There was one mis-hit that the fielder at mid-on, running backwards at a fair clip, failed to hold on to despite a valiant dive, but otherwise it was Karnataka's afternoon. Goud welcomed the new ball with a pull and helped wrest the momentum back his side's way.
"It was a good innings mainly because we were in some trouble and batting wasn't easy," Goud told Cricinfo after the day's play. "I just wanted to stay there and bat for as long as possible." That he did. Like Rajasthan's Robin Bist had on day two, Goud marshalled his tail-end partner, Aiyappa, in fine manner. Singles were picked with ease and loose balls were duly punished. He was especially good against the spinners and used the slowness to pinch singles at the end of the overs.
Run after run, Goud and Aiyappa ground Rajasthan into the dust. It was a most fascinating battle to watch. "I told Aiyappa just to stay put and the first plan was to avoid the follow-on," said Goud. "He did well and we were able to do that. Runs started coming afterwards."
At 3.03pm on a cool afternoon, Goud dabbed another domestic veteran, left-arm spinner Mohammad Aslam, wide of point to reach his century off 190 balls. A jog down the pitch, arms aloft in celebration, and a leap in the air celebrated the hundred followed before Goud quickly got back to his task.
The innings wasn't one usually associated with the stonewalling Goud, but he maintained it was just good to score runs. "I'm glad I could help the team. Being a senior player the team required me to score runs, and I did that. It was satisfying."
Not to be lost in all of this, Aiyappa went past his previous best of an unbeaten seven to buckle down for 24 from 70 balls. His defiance was commendable and helped retrieve Karnataka from what looked a hopeless situation.
Goud and Aiyappa's 121-run stand broke Karnataka's previous last-wicket best of 120 between Raghuram Bhat and Abhiram, against Tamil Nadu in1981-82 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. The end came when Aslam cleaned up Aiyappa in the 129th over and was rewarded his fourth wicket for a persevering 43.2 overs.
"The wicket is fairly uneven and it was tough for batsmen and bowlers," said Aslam. "Looking at the surface before the match, you wouldn't think 100 was achievable. It's been up and down. Those who are willing to toil will get wickets."
As expected spin came into play on the third day as Rajasthan took the first session's honours. Aslam struck early in the day to get rid of nightwatchman KP Appanna, edging to slip in the third over. Opening bowler Sumit Mathur was rewarded for a spirited spell when Thilak Naidu pushed away and edged one to second slip Vineet Saxena, who juggled it but held on.
Offspinner Shamsher Singh was the pick of the bowlers in the morning, flighting it more than Aslam and getting turn and bounce. With Aslam and Shamsher bowling well, short leg and silly point were kept busy, as edges dropped perilously close. After Aslam took himself off, Afroz Khan kept one end tight with his tidy military-medium bowling. The first session ended as it began, as C Raghu popped a simple catch to Nikhil Doru at short leg minutes before lunch.
"Come on, boys, just don't relax out there," said KP Bhaskar, Rajasthan's coach, as his team huddled on the boundary line after lunch. Sunil Joshi half-heartedly chipped his second delivery to mid-on to give Shamsher his second wicket just two balls into the session. Aslam then bowled B Akhil through the gate with an arm ball in the next over. Vinay Kumar followed after two sixes over long-on, when he was trapped leg before by Shamsher to make it 208 for 9.
It would be their last success for 161 minutes as Karnataka, who struggled to forge partnerships all innings, found two contrasting yet stubborn customers to script a classic back-to-the-wall association. And they had Goud to thank for that.
Jamie Alter is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo