Karnataka cling on for a draw
Tamil Nadu 531 (Vidyut 193, Karthik 149, Kumar 90) drew with Karnataka 267 (Raghu 76, Suresh 4-58, Balaji 3-46, Ashwin 3-63) and 269 for 4 (Pawan 84, Pandey 57*, Ashwin 3-71)
How they were out
Having been bowled out cheaply in the first innings, the Karnataka batsmen applied themselves better and hung on for one point from their Group B match against Tamil Nadu. The empty stands and the general relaxed atmosphere that comes with a Ranji match took away from the tense middle session during which Karnataka lost KB Pawan and Robin Uthappa in quick succession. The fire and ice combination of C Raghu, who played his second solid innings of the match, and rookie Manish Pandey, who got a quick half-century, saw Karnataka to what eventually was a comfortable draw. The teams decided to call the match off with 11 mandatory overs to go.
Two seasons ago, this final day would not have meant much for a team that had fallen behind in the first innings - Karnataka in this case. The points system earlier used to reward two points to the team that would get the first-innings lead, and none to the other team. From last season on, though, the respective rewards became three and one, and gave the trailing team an incentive to hang on for a draw, which is what Karnataka did today.
They started the day with all their wickets in hand, but very little confidence after a feeble first-innings performance, when they fell behind by 264 runs. KB Pawan, who made a second good start of the match, didn't repeat his mistake and went on to play a long innings. He didn't have Bharat Chipli's company for long, though. He added 10 to his overnight 23, and holed out to mid-on in R Ashwin's second over of the day. Yo Mahesh took an impressive catch running backwards, keeping his eyes on the ball throughout.
Ganesh Satish, Karnataka's new No. 3, playing only his second match, combined well with Pawan to keep the bowlers out for more than 27 overs. While the intent was to draw the match, the two didn't let the scoring stagnate, and hence didn't let the bowlers get into a rhythm where they could bowl continuously in the areas they wanted. Satish got off the mark by sweeping Ashwin for a boundary, Pawan followed suit with a steer through the thirdman area. He brought up his half-century with a late-cut, his seventh boundary in more than two hours of batting.
Pawan brought up the half-century of the partnership with a pull off L Balaji, and two balls later Satish smashed a slower ball through extra cover. Just before lunch, though, Satish was given out lbw off an Ashwin offbreak, another contentious decision, because this one might have been going down the leg.
Robin Uthappa, Karnataka's captain who has been down with a viral fever, went in at No. 4, but that was the time when Tamil Nadu were starting to build momentum and push for an outright result. Minutes after lunch, Pawan edged C Suresh through to Dinesh Karthik. Three overs later, Uthappa failed to clear mid-on - perhaps the weakness because of the illness coming through. A minimum of 42 overs were left at the time, and four to five fielders in the face of the batsmen were expected throughout.
Raghu stayed cool then: he shut the scoring, kept getting down to the pitch of the spinners, and kept defending solidly. The spinners tried bowling round the stumps - over the wicket in Suresh's case - but couldn't extract a loose shot out of him. The slips, the silly point, and the forward shortleg, all kept waiting but didn't come into play. For 134 minutes, Raghu was a picture of determination and coolness. Of the first 91 balls he faced, he scored only 11, but in the context of the match every ball faced was like a run scored. The first ball after tea, his 92nd, he flicked for a four, and then scored another boundary, before the match was called off.
Pandey, from the other end, cashed in on the aggressive fields, and struck cleanly to get his second half-century in as many Ranji matches. He swept the spinners to the midwicket boundary with ease, twice stopping the shot half-way through: a half-sweep-half-push. But the timing on those shots was good enough to carry the ball to the boundary.
The two stayed undefeated, Raghu on 21 off 112 balls, and Pandey on 57 off 77. Tamil Nadu, who enforced a follow-on for the second time in a row, failed to get 20 wickets again, but with would have made fair strides in the Group B points table with the three points.
How they were out
How they were outChipli: tried to hit Ashwin to the mid-on boundary, but didn't connect properly. Yo Mahesh took a superb catch running backwards
Satish: beaten by an offbreak, but wasn't happy with the lbw decision: this one might have down the leg
Pawan: played forward to C Suresh, but the break on the ball took the edge
Uthappa: looked for a big hit down the ground, but couldn't clear the mid-on
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo