Honours even on day one
Karnataka 277 for 6 (Uthappa 65, Raghu 64, Chawla 2-59, Praveen 2-61) v Uttar Pradesh
One hundred and thirteen: That was the tangible cost of the chances Uttar Pradesh missed on a day in which they failed to hold on to three of the seven catches that came their way. But while UP fielders were intent on letting Karnataka run away with the game, the hosts were in benevolent mood too: some unnecessary shots let UP back in, two of them by the openers who were both dropped during their pieces. Whereupon UP pulled the plug on the scoring, and slowly made their way back to the end the first day on even terms, despite a half-century from the third beneficiary, C Raghu.
On a batting beauty, UP would have expected better from their star fielding line-up having put Karnataka in. They were perhaps looking for an outright win, which would allow them to breathe easy during the next round when they won't be playing. Their progress this season, however, will depend on other results in Group B.
RP Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar opened the bowling, but did not get much help from the pitch. The odd delivery swung - especially one from RP which prompted a loud lbw appeal against Robin Uthappa - but by and large it was a comfortable opening spell for the batsmen.
CP Gautam, on debut replacing KB Pawan who failed recover from his shoulder injury, glanced the day's first boundary in the second over. Uthappa kept RP interested, playing and missing twice in the fifth over. Those two breaks in concentration, however, were followed by a flicked boundary as Karnataka reached 44 without loss.
Praveen Kumar's introduction paid off almost immediately as Gautam slashed at a wide one, edging it hard and high to gully, where Shivakant Shukla let the ball go through his hands. In Praveen's next over, Uthappa played at a wide delivery in the same direction, and Shukla managed to get his hands to this one, before again spilling it. Their respective scores were 18 and 29 then.
Uthappa immediately shifted a gear and went on the aggressive. There was the odd loose shot, but also fluent flicks and hard drives through cover. Two overs from RP, back for a second spell, neatly summed up the hit-and-miss nature of Uthappa's innings. The batsman first went for a big drive, missing it completely, but managed to flick the next ball through midwicket. In the next over he went an aerial, though ended up hoicking it just over mid-off. Two balls later he steered through third man to bring up his half-century, off 60 balls with 10 boundaries.
Just when all was going well for Karnataka, however, Gautam handed UP another chance, similar to the one he had offered before. The bowler was Praveen, the shot similar, but the gully fielder had changed. Tanmay Srivastava held on to the sharp low offering, the total on 98 in only the 21st over. Four balls later, Uthappa tried one shot too many, and edged a short and wide delivery from RP to bring two new batsmen at the crease. Uthappa's 65 came off 69 deliveries, 52 of them in boundaries.
Praveen and RP then seized the opening, and bowled with heart and accuracy. Deepak Chougule and Raghu were examined thoroughly, with bouncers, cutters, and the little swing the two bowlers could muster. The next eight overs featured plays and misses, hits on the body, an edge short of slips and one through them, and only five runs. The pressure told as Raghu, in the first over of Bhuvneshwar's new spell, edged only for Mohammad Kaif to spill a low chance at first slip. Raghu was yet to open his account.
Finally, off the 24th ball he faced, he got off the mark and slowly but surely, together with Chougule, got his side out of strife. Just before the partnership could really threaten, Choughule swept all over a Piyush Chawla delivery, and was out lbw.
Karnataka promoted Thilak Naidu ahead of Manish Pandey, and from 135 for 3, Raghu and Naidu made UP work really hard through the afternoon. While Naidu played a subdued knock, choosing to leave balls outside off stump, Raghu looked solid after the early reprieve, hitting some wonderful boundaries.
To counter the hint of reverse from Bhuvneshwar, Raghu repeatedly walked down the track, playing and missing at a couple just before tea, eventually reaching a well-made half-century off 122 balls. However, against the run of play, Naidu hit Praveen Gupta straight to Suresh Raina at cover, as UP went in to the tea break confident.
Just after tea, Raghu followed Naidu into the pavilion, falling lbw to Chawla. After a 78-run partnership two wickets had fallen for three runs, and for the second time in the day UP threatened to storm back into the match, but Manish Pandey made a Raghu-like start, thwarting another UP comeback and restoring balance to the match. He got his first run off the 22nd ball he faced, accelerated thereupon, using his half-sweep-half-push to good effect.
Minutes before stumps, the final balancing act of the day was enacted with Pandey chasing a wide delivery from Praveen. While the Karnataka batsmen didn't really look the gift horse in its mouth, they weren't entirely the thankless hosts either.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo