Karnataka v Baroda, Ranji Trophy Super League, Bangalore, 3rd day November 25, 2008

Williams and Solanki take the fight to final day

Baroda 169 and 204 for 4 (Williams 97*, Solanki 66) trail Karnataka 395 (Naidu 90, Dravid 83, , Akhil 66, Joshi 55) by 22 runs

Can Connor Williams carry on to make a big score to save Baroda from a defeat? © AFP

Connor Williams and Rakesh Solanki tried their best to stave off defeat but two late wickets to superb catches left Baroda with too much to do on the final day. Baroda are 22 runs short of wiping Karnataka's 226-run first-innings lead but have only six wickets left and an entire day to contend with tomorrow. And their hopes would rest on Williams, who is on 97.

Williams and Solanki stitched together a 140-run stand from 64.3 overs to offer a stiff resistance after the surrender on the first day. However just before bad light curtailed play, Solanki fell to fabulous one-handed diving catch by Rahul Dravid at first slip and a stunning diving effort by KB Pawan at short leg got rid of Shatrunjay Gaekwad.

Till then, the two left-hand batsmen, Williams and Solanki, formed a wall between Karnataka and an early finish. The few people who had strolled in stretched themselves on the tarpaulin sheets beside the boundary. The little girls on the swings of the first day were replaced by fat men. Some walked around the ground, a majority waited for the breaks to rush to have a glimpse of Dravid but for the main part of the day the crowd saw two left-handed batsmen hunched over patiently at the crease.

Williams and Solanki joined hands at 32 for 2, after the Karnataka lower order had added 48 runs in the first session, and were removed only at the start of the final session. Both had a similar style: they stretched forward to defend and waited for the bowlers to drag back the length to rock back to their favoured back foot to score runs. Williams cut and swept the offspinner Sunil Raju and cut and slashed the seamers over gully. Robin Uthappa moved in two gullies and a short third man but Williams didn't make any mistake. It was not a completely fluent knock, though. He edged couple of his cuts and stabbed at a couple outside off but he laid a big price on his wicket. When the spinners overpitched, he drove them through the leg side for runs and when they landed it on a length, he defended on the front foot.

Ditto Solanki. He was more assured of the two though he did offer a chance on 1 when he jabbed a Raju delivery but Manish Pandey, lunging to his right at second slip, spilled it. And he repeated the same stroke only after 200 minutes in the middle. This time, it proved fatal as Dravid dived to pouch it with an outstretched left hand low to the ground. But in the interim, Solanki was very solid. He cut, swept, and cover drove Raju, pulled R Vinaykumar, and cut and on-drove NC Aiyappa for boundaries.

Uthappa had used the medium-pace of Vinay Kumar, Aiyappa, and B Akhil at one end during the second session but neither seam nor spin could separate the duo. Post tea, though, Karnataka applied pressure and the cracks slowly began to appear in the batsmen's approach. Solanki pulled C Raghu just short of midwicket and survived two lbw shouts against the same bowler before finally edging Raju.

Williams too had a couple of lbw shouts as he padded up to the offbreaks and scooped one just short of mid-on but managed to hang on till stumps. Shatrunjay, son of the former India opener Anshuman, was not so lucky. Even as Williams kept asking the umpires to check for bad light, Shatrunjay perished off what turned out to be the last ball before the officials finally relented. He lunged forward to edge Joshi, Pawan dived low to his right to take a one-handed catch and Karnataka were back in control of the game

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo