Karnataka falter despite Gautam ton
Maharashtra 35 for 1 (Khadiwale 23*) trail Karnataka 252 (Gautam 108, Fallah 4-47, Agharkar 3-87) by 217 runs
CM Gautam hit a fine maiden hundred but a late collapse saw Karnataka bowled out for 252 in their first innings at the RSI Ground in Bangalore. The last five wickets fell for eight runs as Maharashtra stormed back to prevent the game from running away from them.
They now have a fight on their hands against the Karnataka spinners, on a turning track and lost one wicket in the 41 minutes they played before stumps, Rohan Bhosale cleaned up by part-time offspinner C Raghu in the last over of the day.
Karnataka were set up by a wonderfully composed knock from Gautam. He started with an extra-cover drive off Mun Mangela but hit his stride against the spinners. One might have expected a gritty, tentative innings from a man playing his second game but he batted fluently, leaning well forward to the spinners, playing with the turn and, when the ball jumped and turned, pushing the bat inside the line and letting the ball spin past him. Not once did he push at the ball hard.
He skipped down the track to lift Enamul Haque jnr, the left-arm spinner from Bangladesh, for a nonchalant six over long-off, his first attacking stroke against spin. He then cut, swept and reverse-swept Salil Agharkar, the best Maharashtra spinner on view. A desperate Agharkar switched to over the wicket and a 6-3 on-side field once Gautam moved into 80s. Gautam still tried to reverse sweep, connected once and missed once before he opted for the conventional sweep with success. He reached his hundred with a cut to deep point and celebrated in style.
Robin Uthappa flattered to deceive with a 57-ball 36. He batted in the V and timed the ball sweetly against the seamers before being undone by Agarkar. He later said he had told Gautam they should bat with the spin but forgot his own advice; he stretched out to drive Agarkar straight but the ball gripped and spun past him to leave him stranded down the track.
Gautam received solid support from the diminutive Deepak Chougule, playing his second game of the season. He pulled Agarkar for two fours and rotated the strike well with some fine running between the wickets. However, he fell while trying to steal a single, caught out by a direct hit from substitute Sangram Atitkar at backward point. Karnataka were on 223 for 5 then and were soon 244 for 6 when Gautam was caught in front, trying to turn Samad Fallah, the left-arm seamer, to the on side.
All hell broke loose. While South Africa fell in a heap in the Test Down Under, Karnataka did their own choke act at the same time. Five wickets fell for eight runs in 8.4 overs as Fallah and Haque shared the wickets. Akhil started the rot first ball after tea, when he chipped a dolly to short cover and the rest surrendered meekly.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo