Bowlers swing it in Karnataka's favour
Saurashtra 183 for 9 (RA Jadeja 38, Raghu 2-8, Joshi 2-32, Vinay 2-46 ) trail Karnataka 305 (Uthappa 139, Vinay 48, RA Jadeja 5-82, Odedra 3-68) by 122 runs
Karnataka, buoyed by probing spells of swing bowling, wrested control of their quarter-final from Saurashtra on the second day in Mumbai. Despite possessing a line-up that has scored heavily in the league phase, Saurashtra stuttered in reply to Karnataka's 305, and ended the day 122 runs adrift with one wicket left.
It was a completely different picture to the first day, when spin dominated proceedings - a situation that raised questions over the teams' strategy to go with an extra fast bowler. But the success of Vinay Kumar, S Aravind and B Akhil has silenced those doubts, at least for the moment.
Aided by the presence of a constant breeze, the fast bowlers repeatedly beat the bat and never allowed the batsmen to settle down. The numbers provided the proof: Ravindra Jadeja's 38 was the best by a Saurashtra batsman while the biggest partnership was also 38, for the sixth wicket between Jadeja and Sagar Jogiyani.
Although opener Chirag Pathak used the bottom hand to pick up a few boundaries initially, Karnataka were not worried since their new-ball pair of Vinay and NC Aiyappa got appreciable movement. After being pulled by Pathak for four early, Vinay finally beat the left-hander from around the wicket. A brilliant outswinger moved into Pathak, who opened up, and then swung away, catching the edge en route to Thilak Naidu behind stumps.
Saurashtra took lunch with no further damage but their hopes were completely deflated in the middle session, during which five wickets fell. Sunil Joshi, Karnataka's leading wicket-taker, struck off the fourth ball after the break. Bhushan Chauhan, the other opener, tried to prod at one, only edging to Rahul Dravid at first slip.
At the other end, debutant left-armer Aravind impressed with his aggression: in addition to injecting more pace, he progressively improved his length to a fuller one while taking the ball away from the batsmen. What was also commendable was a firm wrist, which remained straight at the point of delivery - a trait useful for generating swing.
A memorable moment for Aravind arrived when he worked out Cheteshwar Pujara to earn his maiden wicket: Saurashtra's highest run-getter was new to the crease and was trying to shrug off early nerves. Slanting a delivery away, Aravind was successful in forcing a faint edge, which was picked well by Naidu.
Aravind was unlucky when he beat Jadeja with a straighter one in his next over. A few overs later Jadeja's leading edge travelled past the outstretched hands of the diving C Raghu at gully. In the final delivery of the same over, Jadeja pulled Aravind straight to a charging Joshi at deep square leg, who spilled an easy offering. Jadeja was on eight, Saurashtra 68. The bowler's frustration was obvious, but it did not prove to be an expensive miss.
Shitanshu Kotak, Saurashtra's senior-most batsman, looked miserable in his near two-hour stint at the crease. He eventually poked at an away-going delivery from Vinay to give Naidu his third catch. Akhil, after a wayward over to begin with, got in to the groove with a superb inswinger that beat the clueless Saurashtra captain, Jaydev Shah, in the air before sending the off stump flying.
With Saurashtra in danger of following on, the pair of Jadeja and Sagar Jogiyani went for their shots. Jogiyani hit two fluent square-drives off Aiyappa, Karnataka's weakest bowler. Furious, Aiyappa fired in low and short on off stump, but a vigilant Jogiyani pushed deftly for consecutive boundaries past third man despite two slips and a gully. It also brought up Saurashtra's hundred.
However, just like the first day, a crucial wicket fell just before tea when Jadeja, having pushed to mid-on off Joshi, rushed for a quick single. Jogiyani did not respond and Jadeja failed to make his ground as Akhil's throw to the keeper beat him. It was a rude jolt for Saurashtra and Jadeja raised arms in disappointment, obviously displeased at his partner. Their 38-run stand was the last significant effort of the day from Saurashtra as Karnataka strengthened their position.
Earlier, Saurashtra, frustrated by a 40-run eighth-wicket stand on the first day, had to wait nearly ten overs and 40 runs to take the final two Karnataka wickets. Vinay, overnight on 22, hit some fluent strokes as they went past 300, and was last man out, falling two short of a maiden first-class half-century.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo