Stumps Tamil Nadu 111 for 4 (Karthik 31*, Mukund 3*, Aravind 2-14) lead Karnataka 88 by 23 runs
The Tamil Nadu seam attack wiped out Karnataka for 88, their joint second-lowest total in the Ranji Trophy in the last ten years, on a green Visakhapatnam pitch. After Tamil Nadu won a crucial toss, seamer Aswin Crist, playing his 22nd first-class game, led the way with career-best returns for 6 for 31. T Natarajan and K Vignesh, who had played only seven games each prior to this match, lent supporting hands to extend the resurgence of the Tamil Nadu attack.
That a few Karnataka batsmen attempted injudicious shots also contributed to them crashing in only 37.1 overs. In reply, Tamil Nadu secured the first-innings advantage and closed the first day at 111 for 4.
Natarajan struck with his third ball - a cunning outswinger that opened up KL Rahul. B Aparajith snapped up a low catch at second slip. Kaunain Abbas repeatedly played and missed full balls outside off, before he threw his bat at a wide delivery from Crist and found Vijay Shankar at gully.
After bowling a probing first spell, 5-3-5-1, Natarajan returned to remove opener R Samarth, who had hung on for 70 minutes, and Abhimanyu Mithun, who was promoted to No.5. Natarajan set Mithun up with full balls, and then surprising him with a throat-high short ball. Mithun was uncertain whether to pull or fend. Eventually, a bit of both resulted in the ball hitting the helmet and ballooning to Karthik.
After Manish Pandey and Stuart Binny gave their wickets away, playing across the line, Karnataka went to lunch at 72 for 6. Thirty-five minutes after the break, they were bowled out. Crist claimed three of the four Karnataka wickets to fall after lunch, including that of Karun Nair, and was welcomed back to the pavilion by warm applause from his team-mates and bowling coach L Balaji. "Considering the pressure and rivalry between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, I rate this as my best performance," Crist said after the first day's play.
That Tamil Nadu did not need the services of left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas summed up the pitch and the accuracy of their bowling attack.
Tamil Nadu then suffered twin setbacks. Their captain Abhinav Mukund - down with fever - did not open the batting, and the team lost three wickets in three overs. Kaushik Gandhi, who replaced Mukund at the top, covered the early movement before he chased a wide ball and edged behind for 15. L Suryaprakash and B Indrajith were also out nicking behind.
Karthik, playing his 100th Ranji Trophy match, and Vijay then faced a stern examination outside off, particularly from Vinay Kumar, but they pulled their team ahead with a 70-run stand. It was largely built on compact defence and patience, characteristics that were missing from Karnataka's batting display. When Vinay and S Aravind got the ball to rear up off the track, they cautiously swayed and weaved out of the way.
As the ball grew older, Vijay and Karthik increased in fluency, and coxed the ball into the gaps. Vijay erased the deficit when he pulled Vinay in the air over mid-on. Against the run of play, Vijay was run-out 30 minutes before stumps. Karthik bunted the ball towards point and hared across for a non-existent single, only for Vijay to be run-out at the striker's end, courtesy a ripping direct hit from Abbas at point.
Mukund arrived at No.6 and began positively with a firm whip through midwicket off Binny. Tamil Nadu could have lost Karthik in the last over of the day had wicketkeeper CM Gautam and Shreyas Gopal, at short square leg, not made a mess of a skier. Karthik sent a top-edged pull in the air and the ball landed between Gautam and Gopal.
Karnataka also had to deal with the anxiety of a possible injury to Nair. He did not take the field during Tamil Nadu's innings. "Karun has lower abdomen pain. We will go back and get a scan done," Karnataka coach J Arunkumar said after the day's play.