Karnataka v UP, Ranji semi-final, 1st day, Bangalore January 3, 2010

Pandey and Pawan drive steady Karnataka

Karnataka 255 for 4 (Pandey 66, Pawan 52) v Uttar Pradesh

The Chinnaswamy Stadium hasn't been a venue where bowlers have thrived in the recent past, as the lack of outright results testify - only one in the previous nine first-class matches. In keeping with the trend, Sunday's pitch also provided little encouragement for the Uttar Pradesh bowlers, as they managed only four wickets and conceded 255.

Karnataka's batting unit had a comfortable day, and if not for a couple of ill-advised shots, the home team would have been in a position of dominance. Each of their specialist batsmen got a start, but no one really capitalised on a slow, benign track; their highest run-getters of the season, Manish Pandey and KB Pawan, crafted contrasting half-centuries but didn't convert them to centuries.

UP have three bowlers with India caps in their line-up, but they rarely tested Karnataka after Mohammad Kaif lost the toss. RP Singh provided the visitors their best passage of play an hour after lunch, scalping two wickets in the space of five deliveries. Pawan and Ganesh Satish were making desultory progress, slowly constructing a second-wicket stand that was sapping UP's morale, but RP had both batsmen nicking to the wicketkeeper in the 57th over. Pawan chased one going away with the angle from over the wicket, while Satish fended at a delivery jagging in from round the stumps.

That double-strike left Karnataka at 138 for 3, but only brought together captain Rahul Dravid and Pandey, who combined for the day's largest partnership, worth 109 runs. Dravid was his usual steady self, not taking too many risks, content with punishing the loose deliveries served up. Pandey, though, was more expansive after a cautious beginning, driving Praveen Kumar on-the-up through extra cover and then carving the next one, a shorter, wider offering through cover for four more.

With the score smoothly mounting, UP decided to set 3-6 fields to contain the batsmen: a leg slip, a short midwicket and a very straight short mid-on were the close-in fielders, backed by a wide mid-on, deep midwicket and fine leg. UP's bowlers persistently bowled down the leg side to tie down Karnataka, with medium-pacer Bhuvaneshwar Kumar even sending down three leg-side wides. Before tea, the tactic was used only against Pandey, but Dravid was also subjected to it in the final session. Sometimes, it was the off side that was packed with six close fielders, with bowlers angling it across the batsmen from round the wicket.

The strategy worked for a while, but it was abandoned after the 84th over when Pandey twice found a way through a gridlock of fielders to the boundary on the off side: first, Parvinder Singh was deftly gilded to the vacant third-man region for four, and then a full, wide ball was crashed through cover for another boundary.

Another move from UP to minimise the runs was also thwarted by a flurry of fours from Pandey. Thinking that the new ball would be easier to score off they delayed taking it, preferring the unthreatening dibbly-dobblies of Parvinder and the leg spin of Piyush Chawla. In the 90th over, bowled by Parvinder, Pandey reached his half-century with a cross-batted swipe to midwicket, clubbed the next delivery over mid-on for a one-bounce four and completed a hat-trick of boundaries by top-edging a wide one over point. UP took the new ball in the next over.

RP Singh and Bhuvaneshwar bowled four amiable overs with it, during which Pandey and Dravid stretched their partnership beyond hundred. Kaif then decided to replace Bhuvaneshwar with Praveen Kumar, who struck with his first delivery. Pandey exited after looking to muscle a very wide delivery through the off side, only managing to edge it to second slip, where Kaif took a sharp catch.

There had been another attempted shot to regret for Karnataka earlier in the morning, when opener Robin Uthappa looked to sweep an overpitched delivery from left-arm spinner Praveen Gupta, only to miss and be plumb lbw. Uthappa and Pawan had no trouble with the bowling till then. Uthappa had moved fluently to 32, and had safely negotiated the potentially troublesome first hour, before his misjudgment ended his stay.

Pawan and Satish then took their time in building Karnataka's score. Pawan dropped anchor while Satish was a bit more adventurous, always keen to use his feet to the spinners. Both of them had their hopes of a big score dashed by RP, but Karnataka still have the rock-solid Dravid at the crease to orchestrate the push towards 400 on the second day.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo