Karnataka v Saurashtra, Ranji Trophy Super League quarter-final, 3rd day December 28, 2008

Saurashtra fight but Karnataka firmly in command

Saurashtra 189 and 10 for 2 (Vinay 2-1) need another 315 runs to beat Karnataka 305 and 208 (Akhil 56, Dravid 52, Jobanputra 5-54, R Jadeja 4-58)
Scorecard


Sandeep Jobanputra took five wickets to lead Saurashtra's fightback © Cricinfo Ltd
 

Saurashtra did well to keep Karnataka to 208 in their second innings, but Vinay Kumar's double-strike at the fag end of the day leaves them with a daunting chase on a fourth-day pitch at the Brabourne Stadium.

After their first innings folded ten minutes into the day for 189 - giving Karnataka a lead of 116 - Saurashtra came back to dominate proceedings for most of a day on which 13 wickets fell. Left-arm medium-pacer Sandeep Jobanputra picked his first five-for of the season, supported by first-innings hero Ravindra Jadeja, to keep the opposition in check.

Jobanputra, who bowled only eight overs in the previous innings after suffering a minor finger injury, quickly swung the momentum Saurashtra's way by removing Karnataka's openers cheaply. A bottom edge from KB Pawan was picked up nicely behind the stumps, and a few overs later Jobanputra delivered the biggest blow when he uprooted Robin Uthappa's leg stump. Uthappa, who top-scored with 139 in the first innings, read the leg-stump line and moved towards off in an attempt to deflect the ball to the on side.

Pressure was now on Rahul Dravid, who had looked unconvincing during his 26 in the first innings. But he took off smoothly without any hiccups second time around. An early straight drive off Jobanputra hit the stumps at the non-striker's end, but Dravid got it right when he repeated the stroke, placing it to the right of Jayesh Odedra. Another boundary was conceded a couple of balls later when a Dravid back-foot punch beat the man at cover.

Thirty runs came in less than seven overs, but the third-wicket stand was broken when CM Gautam paid for complacency. Having charged Odedra, Gautam tried to slash hard a ball too close to his body but the thick outside edge was picked well by the Shitanshu Kotak, standing at widish first-slip.

C Raghu, having begun edgily, started timing the ball better post lunch. He deftly opened the face of the bat against Jadeja's left-arm spin, beating the slip cordon for a couple of fours. Dravid leaned back to strike another four off Kamlesh Makvana, who was easily Saurashtra's worst bowler - he was unsuccessful in the first innings as well.

The move to replace him with Jadeja worked instantly as he separated the Dravid-Raghu pairing of 68, the day's most productive. Bowling for the first time from the Club House end, Jadeja got lucky when Raghu spooned a simple catch to first slip. Thilak Naidu then disappointed with the bat for the second time in the game, lobbing an equally simple catch to cover.

Karnataka's players might have been on the edge of their seats in the dressing room, but the presence of Dravid, who had nudged his way to a half-century with a push past midwicket, would have been reassuring. However, he betrayed those hopes when miscuing an attempted pull from Jobanputra, the leading edge going straight to mid-off.

Throughout his three spells in the day, Jobanputra suffocated batsmen by consistently pitching short of a length and moving the ball away, rarely granting any room. His strategy worked and he was only frustrated towards the end by stodgy resistance from B Akhil and Vinay, who used the long handle to stretch the lead.

Most of Akhil's runs came off the sweep though he got a reprieve when Balkrishna Jadeaja dropped him at long leg, off Makvana, when he was on 33. When Jobanputra returned to replace Jadeja, Akhil pulled him through midwicket and followed it with a glide for another four to move closer to fifty. He duly got it with a single. But trying to hit a fuller one from Jobanputra, he was caught behind; by then Karnataka had regained the control of the game.

Set 325 to win, Saurashtra had a forgettable start, losing an opener and a night-watchman in the first over of the chase. Vinay, who had already ruffled Saurashtra on Saturday with his swing, was once again successful in moving the ball at good pace and an erroneous decision by the umpire helped him get the initial breakthrough.

On the third ball, Chirag Pathak tried to poke at a straighter delivery and missed. The bat had hit the pads on the downswing and umpire Suresh Shastri gave in to the vociferous appeals. There was nothing wrong with the decision of Makvana, who was caught behind off the over's final ball.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo