Karnataka ease to semi-finals after inconsequential day
Karnataka 378 (Pandey 115, Uthappa 91) and 42 for 1 drew with Punjab 300 (Bhalla 70*, Kaul 68, Joshi 4-62) and 367 for 6 decl (Sohal 89, Kaul 86)
Karnataka waltzed into the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy for only the second time since their triumphant campaign in 1998-99 by prevailing over Punjab on the basis of the first-innings lead in Mysore. The competitive interest in the game had evaporated yesterday afternoon when Punjab decided to adopt a go-slow approach in their batting and nothing much changed today as Punjab declared only 76 minutes before tea and both teams agreed to call off the proceedings at 3.11 pm.
There were three insignificant half-centuries for Punjab: Sunny Sohal and Uday Kaul missed centuries and Mayank Sidhana fell for an exact fifty and while there was nothing to get enthused about any of the three innings in the context of the game, Sohal's effort would have warmed the hearts of Punjab fans. He is not known for patient knocks and has in the past been guilty of throwing away starts but he dropped anchor today. Curiously, this effort came when perhaps a more adventurous route was the crying need of the day but Sohal was just following the team plan.
Bhupinder Singh Sr, Punjab's coach, said that Manpreet Gony wasn't fit to bowl (shoulder injury) and he felt some of the batsmen would do well to get some practice in the middle. It's debatable what the practice was for as their campaign had derailed with this season-ending game and they are headed home for some rest.
Kaul has been Punjab's best batsman this season and he proved it again today with yet another assured knock. Rarely was he hurried, and seldom was he in any trouble. As the innings progressed he took more risks, shuffling across the stumps to flick to the on side but fell, against the run of play, to one such attempt. He walked across and tried to lap a short-of-a-length delivery to the on side but got a top edge that was swallowed by the bowler Vinay Kumar. Mayank and Taruwar Kohli too got among some runs but the game was always destined to end up going nowhere once Punjab shut shop yesterday.
"I was a little surprised by how Punjab batted, thought they would make us bat for 60 overs and set us a target, but no complaints," Rahul Dravid said later. "We were happy to wrap up the game and move on. We could have bowled a bit better at the end of the first day, certainly our catching could have been a lot better and we should have converted more of our starts while batting."
For his part, Pankaj Dharmani, Punjab's captain, said he was satisfied with their performance this season. "We were hit by the ICL and we are in a transition stage. We have played well to reach the quarter-finals and our bowling has been good. Some 12-14 players have made their debuts in the last two seasons and we are slowly getting to form the nucleus of the side."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo