Thilak Naidu and Dravid put Karnataka on top
Karnataka 347 for 7 (Naidu 90, Dravid 83, Joshi 55, Akhil 40*) lead Baroda 169 (Solanki 53, Raju 4-30) by 178 runs
Rahul Dravid took them out of troubled waters, Thilak Naidu consolidated their position before Sunil Joshi's breezy knock allowed Karnataka to seize the advantage by the end of the second day in Bangalore.
Though Naidu played a fine innings and Joshi played an enterprising knock, it was Dravid who laid the platform with an assured 83. The pitch eased out during the afternoon as the sun came out but it was still doing something in the morning when Dravid took charge. Overnight on 26, he looked at ease during his stay today.
He repeatedly took positive strides out to the seamers and started off with an on-driven boundary against Salim Veragi. Spin was introduced in the form of Rajesh Pawar and Dravid started using his feet. He went right back to play the shot of his innings - a gorgeous punchy on drive through wide mid-on - off Pawar before he chipped down the track to lift the offspinner Utkarsh Patel over long-on.
A couple of trademark cover drives against the spinner saw him move along nicely before the first moment of self-doubt arrived on 75. Ajitesh Argal, the best Baroda bowler, got one to shape away late and Dravid was committed on the forward prod but the edge was spilled by Satyajit Parab at first slip. But it didn't prove costly as Dravid fell to the same bowler in the next over. Connor Williams set a 7-2 off-side field and Dravid dragged an intended extra-cover drive off the very next ball to his stumps.
Thilak Naidu, one of the most colourful personalities in the domestic cricket today, made sure Dravid's effort wasn't wasted. The ball was still turning, albeit a touch slow, and he displayed a tight technique: He stretched well forward to smother the spin and he showed excellent judgement of the amount of the turn and his off stump to let the ball through to the keeper on other occasions.
He played quite a few delicious cover drives against the spinners. He cover drove Patel for couple of boundaries before repeating the dose against the left-arm spinner Rajesh Pawar. The field thickened on the off side and he deployed the sweep shot to good effect. A slog sweep fetched him a six, two fine sweeps pinged the fine-leg boundary.
A re-adjustment to the field saw the cover drives come back. So it went along rather nicely before tea intervened and Naidu slowed down appreciably upon resumption. And Pawar got rid of him on 90. Naidu shaped to late cut, the wicketkeeper collected and the appeal was upheld.
However, by then, Naidu had shared a 103-run partnership in 122 minutes with Joshi to seize the advantage. It was Joshi who took the pressure off after the fall of Dravid with a refreshingly positive knock. He flicked Argal for his first boundary before turning his attention to the spinners. Despite the presence of a deep wide midwicket fielder, he slog swept Pawar for two huge sixes over that man before sweeping Patel over deep square leg and lofting one over long-on.
But his best shot came against the mediumpacer Ketan Panchal: He simply knifed through the line of a length delivery to clear long-off. He fell against the run of the play to Argal as he shaped initially to leave the ball before trying to get his bat in line but it was too late; the ball had rushed through the bat and pad gap to clean up the off stump. B Akhil, playing his first game of the season, and Sunil Raju ensured there wouldn't be further damage. Akhil used his height well to reach out to the spinners and played a few drives when the opportunity presented.
By the end of the day, Baroda were staring at defeat. The first-day collapse and the resistance of the Karnataka batsmen have left them with too much to do. Perhaps, had Shatrunjay Gaekwad held C Raghu's catch in the fourth over of the day when Karnataka were on 71 for 3, things could have been different. Raghu eventually departed 45 minutes later with the score on 99. The morning dampness had evaporated by then and Naidu joined hands with Dravid to ease Karnataka to a commanding position.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo