Akhil and the tail frustrate UP
Uttar Pradesh 44 for 1 (Tanmay 29*, Raina 11*, Aiyappa 1-3) trail Karnataka 511 (Akhil 135, Uthappa 65, Joshi 64, Raghu 64, Raina 2-7) by 467 runs
Karnataka's lower order took full toll of a supremely benign Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch to post in excess of 500; their first 400-plus total of the season. B Akhil scored his maiden first-class century, Sunil Joshi his third half-century in as many matches, and they gave their top order a lesson in not throwing away good starts. UP bowlers toiled for 168.5 overs - at times without inspiration, the second time they have been made to bowl 150 overs in an innings in the last three years, both occasions coming this season. In reply they limped through their 17 overs to 44 for 1, and if they are to overhaul Karnataka's total, they will need to cross 500 for the first time this season.
Akhil had not been a part of the Karnataka squad for the first two matches, in which they scored two points. His comeback to the side - on the back of a stupendous first-division season - was considered a big gamble (in his previous 44 matches, his best had been 80). On today's evidence, the gamble seems to be paying off. He had been in for more than an hour by stumps yesterday, having made a patient start for 22. He would have known that on this pitch 500 would be the par score. Joshi had just joined him, with the sixth wicket falling five overs before stumps. The two made a tentative start on the second day: Joshi edged Bhuvneshwar Kumar wide of second slip in the second over of the day, and in the next over Akhil edged RP Singh to just short of Mohammad Kaif at first slip. Both those exchanges fetched Karnataka boundaries and that was the closest UP got to taking a wicket for the next 40 overs.
Akhil got the partnership going with a square cut and a leg glance off Bhuvneshwar's successive overs to see him out of the attack. A powerful square cut off RP, played later than an orthodox one so that he could beat the cover-point, took him to within one of 50, which he got with a dab to mid-on later in the over.
UP were frustrated by then, and went on to their version of leg theory. They had the medium-pacers bowling into the batsmen's pads with a 6-3 leg-side field. Two of the on-side fielders were mid-range short leg and midwicket. Akhil once managed to thread that gap to increase the frustration, and later cover-drove a wide half-volley to bring an end to the plan.
When the spinners were brought on, Joshi got into the act, employing the sweep and the cover drive to good use. One slog-sweep off Piyush Chawla just managed to clear the mid-off, but apart from that his innings was risk-free. His half-century added gloss to what has already been a good season. He has now scored 226 runs and taken 20 wickets in five matches. Kaif brought himself on for a few overs before lunch without effect. If things weren't bad enough for UP, Akhil reverse-lapped Praveen Gupta with ease five minutes before lunch.
Just after lunch, though, a bowling change finally worked for UP as Suresh Raina beat Joshi with a straighter delivery from round the stumps. Joshi had scored 64 by then, and with Akhil he had added 135 runs. Akhil continued to get similar support from the new man, Sunil Raju.
Soon UP went back to the defensive, bowling outside leg with strong leg-side fields. The only period of contest during the eighth-wicket partnership came when Praveen Kumar gave Raju some short-pitch stuff, and a few verbals. Thilak Naidu shouted from the dressing room advising Raju to not listen to Praveen while the crowd (50 people) got into action every time a bouncer was bowled and Raju survived that play.
Akhil slog-swept Gupta over midwicket to reach his century in what was a chanceless innings featuring shots all around the ground. The pitch didn't ask many questions of him, and he didn't get himself into any trouble either. The partnership between Akhil and Raju continued to bloom, but as it approached 100 Raju was beaten by Chawla and caught in front. The next bowling change worked for UP: in the next over Raina found Akhil to be a bit complacent, and got an edge to an attempted cut. He missed 150 by 15 runs, and Karnataka were still 28 short of 500.
Some more frustration awaited UP, though, as R Vinay Kumar and NC Aiyappa hit their way to a 39-run partnership. They hit three boundaries each before the second new ball claimed Aiyappa.
While Tanmay Srivastava made a positive start to the innings, picking Vinay Kumar off his legs for a first-ball four, Shivakant Shukla's horror match continued. He had dropped two catches yesterday, and took ages to get going with the bat today. After he took 26 balls to get off the mark, he faced four more balls before top-edging a hook to give Aiyappa an easy return catch for his 100th first-class wicket. Raina, the new man, was troubled in the beginning by Raju's offbreaks, and survived a stumping when the third-umpire ruled in his favour while his foot was on the line. He was on 3 then, and hit two beautiful boundaries, one to the last ball of the day.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo