Dravid fifty takes Karnataka close to win
Andhra 218 (Manoj Sai 70, Suresh 54, Joshi 5-41) and 28 for 4
need another 292 runs to beat Karnataka 366 and 171 (Dravid 50,
Seventeen wickets fell on a dramatic third day in Mysore, but there was no change in the overall match situation, with Karnataka retaining a firm grip. Andhra fought back after falling 148 runs short in the first innings through medium-pacer P Vijaykumar's six-wicket haul. But their top order's failings, on a pitch with a hint of variable bounce, put Karnataka back in charge.
Andhra mostly kept only two fielders on the leg side, and their bowlers' persistent outside-off line had most of the Karnataka batsmen feeling for the ball. Vijaykumar reaped most of the benefits, five of his wickets coming through catches to the keeper or slip. His other victim, Robin Uthappa, squatted exaggeratedly after being bowled for 9 indicating that the ball kept lower than he had anticipated.
Rahul Dravid's polished 50 was the centrepiece of Karnataka's second innings, but the youngsters in the line-up failed again. A big chunk of Dravid's, and Karnataka's, runs came in the region between third man and cover. He started cautiously, refusing to be tempted by the wide deliveries outside off stump, and it was only after getting his eye in that he employed the cut. There were some soft-handed, controlled glides past slip and, some delicate leg glances when the bowling drifted onto his pads. The only blemish in another assured knock was an attempted upper-cut which flew just above the hands of slip. He finally fell, nicking a wide delivery from D Kalyankrishna to the keeper; Karnataka slipped to 135 for 6.
Brief bursts of hitting followed from Thilak Naidu, Sunil Joshi and Vinay Kumar before the innings came to a close with NC Aiyappa giving a straightforward catch to Hemal Watekar at slip off Vijaykumar, who was so elated with his career-best performance that he tripped over a team-mate's foot as he set off on a celebratory run.
Barring Dravid, the Karnataka batsmen frequently groped for the ball outside off stump before finally getting an edge. G Satish's innings typifying their display: he edged past third slip, survived two massive appeals for caught behind, and, in one period, was beaten in four of five deliveries, before finally being caught by wicketkeeper Manoj Sai.
Andhra needed 320 off 120 overs to pull off a comeback victory, a challenging task but as good a position as they could have hoped for at the start of the day. However their batsmen chose to follow the template set by Karnataka's batsmen. Loose away-from-the-body wafts led to three Andhra wickets; those of their openers, Watekar and LNP Reddy, and their first-innings top scorer Sai. Joshi chipped in with one more, trapping B Sumanth lbw on the back foot, and the visitors finished the day on 28 for 4.
Their tail-enders had responded better to the challenge of saving the follow-on in the morning session. They were eight down after Joshi got Kalyankrishna in the fourth over of the day, but M Suresh and debutant Suresh Babu resisted. Suresh fell soon after bringing up his fifty, miscuing a pull to point. Andhra were nine down, and still needed 16 more runs.
The inexperienced left-arm spinner KP Appanna was brought on at that stage, a move which backfired as Babu slammed three fours in his first over. A sweep for four in Appanna's next over ensured Andhra avoided the follow-on. Karnataka were disappointed but their smiles were back by the end of the day.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo