Arun Karthik puts TN on top
Tamil Nadu's romance with debutants continued. Abhinav Mukund scored a century on debut last year and in the absence of M Vijay, who had to leave the last match mid-way to go open for India, Arun Karthik, playing his first first-class match, rescued his team - struggling at 51 for 3 - in an incredibly positive manner to run Karnataka ragged. To assist him at the other end was an experienced campaigner in S Vidyut, playing his ninth season. By the time Arun finally got out for 149 off 189 balls, the two had added 246 in 358 balls, and Karnataka lost the initiative Vinay Kumar had given them in the first session.
Tamil Nadu won the toss and batted on a pitch that would surely assist spin, and hence it was important for Karnataka to get off to a good start. Vinay Kumar and Bharat Chipli gave them just that, getting consistent away swing in the first session. Mukund, fresh from a triple-century, followed a delivery angled away from Vinay to let them in. S Badrinath, dropped from the Indian ODI team, came back to play a tentative 7. He survived a sharp caught-and-bowled chance off Chipli, and two close lbw shouts off Vinay before hanging his bat out to an outswinger from Kumar.
A controversial dismissal followed. Dinesh Karthik drove the first ball Sunil Joshi bowled into the boot of KB Pawan at silly point and it lobbed off to Deepak Chougule at cover. The Karnataka fielders started celebrating right away, and the umpire ruled Karthik out, but the batsman was not pleased with the decision. He stood his ground, and when told to walk off, he did so reluctantly. Three wickets had fallen in the space of 27 runs, and the advantage the toss brought seemed to be fading away.
But once Vidyut joined Arun, Karnataka started being pushed out of the match. The spinners - as many as four of them in the side: Vinu Narayanan was brought in for NC Aiyappa - got purchase even in the first session. As soon as the 23rd over, Thilak Naidu collected one in front of his face, but the spinners were hit out of the attack by an aggressive Arun. Vinu, the other debutant in the match, was welcomed with a slog-sweep over midwicket. Joshi was hit over the infield twice before Sunil Raju was introduced. Raju got big turn from the pitch, but that didn't put Arun off his aggressive ways.
Arun slog-swept Raju twice in the 26th over to reach his half-century, with ten boundaries and a six, and in only 52 deliveries. There were no signs of slowing down either. Defensive fields ensued in the post-lunch session. Raju bowled from round the stumps, with a 7-2 leg-side field - the wicketkeeper standing outside leg stump - but Arun still swept him to the square-leg boundaries. Karnataka were soon caught short of bowling options, and imagination. On 90, Arun got his chance when Ganesh Satish misjudged a catch at fine-leg boundary, and didn't come in fast enough.
Soon Arun reached his century with a pull off Vinay. The hundred came off 115 deliveries, 70 in boundaries. The Tamil Nadu camp was pleased as punch, and relieved too. The applause went on for about two minutes, sort of making up for the lack of spectators.
Vidyut, from the other end, provided the wise hand. He hogged the strike in the initial stages, seeing off the Vinay threat, and not letting the scoring stagnate at the same time. Especially impressive was his use of feet to spinners. When he stepped out, he took long strides, and got right to the pitch of the ball, and cleared the infield with ease. He reached his half-century just after lunch; it took 122 balls and included six boundaries and a six. At that point of time, he had faced 122 deliveries, while Arun, opener, had faced only 115.
In the middle session, he took charge of the scoring, and moved from 26 to 95. Tamil Nadu didn't lose a wicket in that session, as only C Raghu could keep the scoring-rate down. Vidyut brought up his century with a straight six, which went to the tier above the press box. And after Arun finally fell - to the shot he had lived by, the sweep - in the 77th over of the day, Vidyut shut shop. He scored only four runs after that, but made sure he went unbeaten into day two.
Karnataka took only four minutes more than the stipulated six hours to bowl their 90 overs, a commendable over-rate going by the prevailing standards both in Ranji Trophy and Test cricket. But the over-rate was the only thing they got right after the early-morning burst by Vinay Kumar.
Mukund: Vinay Kumar, after bowling a string of outswingers, got one to angle across the left-hand batsman, and Mukund edged it to second slip.
Badrinath: After an uncomfortable 26-minute stay at the wicket, Badrinath hung his bat out to an outswinger, starting just outside the off stump, and got an edge.
Dinesh Karthik: Drove into the boot of KB Pawan at silly point, and it lobbed up to the substitute, Deepak Chaoughule, at cover. Karthik didn't look pleased with the decision.
Arun: Fell finally to a sweep, this one getting a top edge to deep fine-leg boundary.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo