Karnataka 252 and 131 for 5 (Akhil 30*, ) lead Maharashtra 210 (Khadiwale 70, Shilamkar 39, , Appanna 4-40, Joshi 4-62) by 173 runs
Fourteen wickets fell on a spinners' day as Karnataka surged to a healthy 173-run lead with five wickets remaining in their second innings at the RSI Ground in Bangalore. Sunil Joshi harassed Maharashtra'a top order and KP Appanna cleaned up the tail to give their batsmen a chance to take the game away from the visitors.
Anything over 225 in the fourth innings is going to be tough on this pitch and the match appears to be heading for a third-day finish. There were a couple of brave charges from Maharashtra during the day - a 69-run partnership between Harshad Khadiwale and Kedar Jadhav and a 44-run stand between Deepak Shilamkar and Rohit Motwani - to create some momentum and raise hopes but Maharashtra were in free fall against the spinners.
Jadhav and Khadiwale batted with purpose and with a plan. Jadhav, who was dropped first-ball by Deepak Chougule off Joshi in the slips, employed the slog-sweep to good effect. He picked two boundaries with that shot and, when Joshi altered the line to outside off, he square-drove pleasingly to pick a few runs. Joshi did trouble him on a couple of occasions when the ball jumped and reared up chest-high but that would have been expected on this pitch.
If Jadhav swept, Khadiwale chose to cover-drive with the turn against the left-arm spinners. He cover-drove KP Appanna - who wasn't effective till he came later to wipe out the tail - repeatedly and also deployed the sweep on occasions. He also picked quite a few singles with dabs here and there to keep the score ticking and followed up a lovely inside-out cover drive with a swept four to bring up his fifty and the team's hundred. He was dropped on 53 by a diving C Gautam at silly point.
Maharashtra were at 127 for 3 when Jadhav fell, trapped in front by C Raghu, and Joshi swung in immediately to clean up Ganesh Gaekwad with a ripper that pitched on middle and leg and hit off stump. He lured Khadiwale with turn and bounce to offer a catch that was held brilliantly by Raghu, who flung low to his left to hold it. Joshi had been operating unsuccessfully for 12 overs from the Pavilion End before he struck gold in his first over after switching to the Club House End. Three wickets fell in the space of 12 runs before Shilamkar and Motwani attempted to revive the innings. Shilamkar was the aggressor, hitting a breezy 39 in the partnership.
Shilamkar too followed the general Maharashtra plan: Sweep when you can and cut if they bowl short. The tactic fetched him quick runs but he fell while pushing Appanna to silly point. Motwani continued to remain resolute in defence but the rest collapsed. The last four wickets fell for three runs as Appanna ran riot.
Knowing it would be only time before they pop one to the close-in men, Karnataka tried to be positive in their second innings. KB Pawan started with a straight-driven boundary off the first ball of the innings from Samad Fallah and Maharashtra, unsurprisingly, had the left-arm spinner Salil Agharkar share the new ball. Pawan swept him for a boundary but fell to the offspinner Ganesh Gaekwad, failing to clear mid-on. And Uthappa, who had resisted the urge to reverse-sweep in the first innings, tried it fatally against Agharkar.
The first-innings centurion Gautam looked comfortable in his short stay of 26 runs. He cut Agarkar to the point boundary, lifted Enamul Haque jnr over long-off in a repeat of his first-innings six and cover-drove Gaekwad to the boundary off the first ball post tea. However, Gaekwad had him caught at silly point and went on to claim Thilak Naidu with a one that turned and bounced sharply to take the glove and lob to backward short-leg.
Karnataka were at 92 for 5 but recovered courtesy an unbroken 39-run partnership between B Akhil and Raghu. The tall Akhil, who scored 30 runs, was the first batsman who repeatedly stepped down the track to keep the spinners at bay. He started off with a fierce sweep over square leg and started skipping down to either play a forcing shot or a defensive stroke. If the last five can add another 40-50 runs on Saturday, Karnataka could well book a berth in the quarter-finals.