Seamers put Karnataka on verge of final spot
Karnataka 43 for 3 and 575 for 7 dec lead Uttar Pradesh 208 (Praveen Kumar 58*, RP Srivastava 55, Mithun 4-51) by 410 runs
On a flat track at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Karnataka showed just why they have been the most fearsome team this Ranji season. The home side's in-form seam attack, led by newcomer Abhimanyu Mithun, squashed Uttar Pradesh's hopes of making a third straight Ranji final by dismantling them for 208. For two days, Karnataka's batsmen had enjoyed themselves against a UP attack brimming with internationally-experienced players, but the visiting batsmen floundered on a surface that still had little to excite the bowlers.
Rahul Dravid's batting masterclass on Monday had already dimmed UP's chances of progressing, the first four overs of the third day extinguished them: the two highest scorers of the season, Tanmay Srivastava and Parvinder Singh, were dismissed and UP were stuttering at 13 for 4. Srivastava reached out to a wide delivery from Mithun and bottom-edged it on to his stumps while Parvinder missed an incoming delivery from R Vinaykumar to be lbw. The first-innings lead, and with it a place in the final, was an unthinkable 563 runs away.
Mohammad Kaif and Rohit Prakash Srivastava then awkwardly survived a barrage of bouncers from Mithun, taking several blows to the body. Kaif was fortunate to survive on 16 when an edge off Mithun hummed between the wicketkeeper and first slip.
Life became easier once Mithun and Vinay were out of the attack, Rohit got his cover drive going, finding the boundary in successive overs from fast bowler S Aravind. Left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi wasn't getting the ball to turn alarmingly, but he kept the batsmen on a leash, giving away only five runs in a four-over spell.
Karnataka looked set for a long stay in the field after Kaif and Rohit defied the bowling for two and a half hours, dragging UP past 100. That was when Mithun was brought back for another spell; he struck with his third delivery, getting the big wicket of Kaif, who defended a fullish delivery with an angled bat, only to see the ball roll back onto the stumps. That wicket kicked off another UP collapse, four falling for 37.
Piyush Chawla was the next to get a working over from Mithun, but he managed to keep his wicket intact with a series of aggressive shots that boosted him to 22 off 12. Mithun also softened up Rohit with short balls, but when he induced the edge with a fuller delivery, the chance dropped short of second slip. Rohit didn't last too long, though, closing the face too soon against Sunil Joshi to pop a catch to Robin Uthappa at silly point. Mithun's fiery bowling finally got him another wicket soon after, when Amir Khan was undone by a delivery that stopped on him, and a checked pull lobbed to square leg where Uthappa snapped another catch.
With UP at 130 for 7, Praveen Kumar walked out determined to show his top-order batsmen what an easy-paced track it was. In a whirlwind of clean hitting, Praveen galloped to a run-a-ball half-century which had four sixes and four fours, almost all of which were in the arc from long-on to long-off. Joshi, in particular, was taken apart: three of Praveen's sixes, including a monster hit that went into the second tier, was off him. When Praveen reached his fifty, he gesticulated furiously with the bat towards the dressing room, making his scorn on the specialist batsmen's efforts clear. There was one more Praveen six - a flat, powerful hit over long-off - before No. 11 RP Singh was bowled by legspinner Amit Verma to end the UP innings.
With a gargantuan first-innings lead in the bag, and a place in the finals virtually assured, Karnataka decided to not push for the outright win, perhaps wanting to rest their bowlers because there is only a four-day break before the final begins. The match meandered meaninglessly, with the home side's openers watchfully playing out 16 overs. Chawla though gave them a bit of a jolt by striking in three successive overs, but his efforts aren't likely to have an impact on the overall result.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo