Honours even despite Uthappa ton
Karnataka 277 for 7 (Uthappa 133) v Andhra
Rahul Dravid walked in to the roars of a nearly packed stadium - and his untimely exit left the crowds stunned - but it was Robin Uthappa, the Karnataka captain, who took the applause with his second century of the season at the Gangothri Glades Cricket Ground in Mysore. Uthappa ensured the first two sessions went his team's way, but a late fightback from the Andhra bowlers helped them claim a share of the opening day honours.
Uthappa chose to bat and though he and KB Pawan were confronted with a pitch that had a tinge of green, they had little trouble negotiating the new ball. Pawan set the early pace before Uthappa got into his groove. Uthappa was beaten several times early on. There were a few outside edges, and a reprieve when on 24 - Hemal Watekar grassing a chance at cover - but he kept going for his shots.
After the first hour, he was walking down the track even to the quick bowlers, a sign of his growing confidence. A couple of paddle-sweeps off the legspinner M Suresh sent a further warning to the bowlers; after the first one was just cut off by the fine-leg fielder, Uthappa placed the next one a little more finer to get a boundary. There were some impeccably timed off-drives against the medium-pacers while his intelligent use of the horizontal bat shots blunted Suresh's bowling. He put Karnataka right on top; at lunch they were at 105 for 0.
A couple of quick wickets brought together the marquee names of Karnataka's batting, and the pair set about reinstating the hosts' advantage. Dravid was circumspect to start with, content to leave alone as many deliveries as he could. He accepted an overpitched gift on leg stump from P Vijaykumar to get going and employed the whip to square leg and the cut shot to keep the score ticking.
It was Uthappa, though, who did the bulk of the scoring. More eye-catching off-drives flowed but it was a gentle push down the ground for three that was the stand-out stroke as Karnataka moved to 170 for 2. The crowd started to chant "Uthappa, Uthappa, sixer bekappa" (Uthappa, Uthappa, we want sixer), and he duly obliged, slamming part-timer Watekar over the midwicket boundary. The next ball was also hammered in the same direction, but landed just within the boundary.
Andhra's troubles were characterised by a piece of fielding soon after: a thick outside edge from Uthappa flew towards third man, the fielder belatedly decided to charge in to attempt a catch, he didn't make it in time and it bounced past him for a four.
With tea around the around the corner, Karnataka were at 197 for 2, and their best batsmen had got their eye in. That's when things started to unravel. Uthappa fell trying a cute dab which was taken by Watekar at slip, C Raghu was run out by a direct hit from AG Pradeep at cover soon after tea, and Manish Pandey chipped a catch to LNP Reddy at mid-off. The score was now 216 for 5, and the Andhra team perked up, jogging quickly to their fielding positions at the end of every over.
Much depended on Dravid, who was not flustered either by the Andhra bowling or the fall of wickets. However, only seven runs had been added after Pandey's dismissal, when Dravid inexplicably shouldered arms to a delivery from D Kalyankrishna which crashed into his off stump. It was Andhra who were now in control, though some hitting from Vinay Kumar (27*) and Sunil Joshi (18*) pushed the hosts to 277.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo