Karnataka 322 for 4 (Nair 119*, Gopal 54*, Pandey 53) lead Bengal 312 (Chatterjee 145, Saha 90) by 10 runs
Karun Nair scored an unflustered hundred to put Karnataka on top against Bengal on a day that could have easily gone either team's way in Bangalore. Karnataka were in slightly precarious positions a couple of times and Nair stitched two crucial partnerships to avoid any further hiccups for his team, as the hosts ended the second day with a lead of 10 runs and six wickets in hand. After Karnataka lost two wickets in the first session and two more in the second, Nair's unbeaten 119 ensured the third went wicketless as he cruised along with Shreyas Gopal during a century stand.
Nair's first consolidating alliance came with Manish Pandey for a stand of 98 runs, after three batsmen had returned to the pavilion, including Shishir Bhavane retiring hurt. The bigger and more sedate partnership came with Gopal for 113 runs that saw Bengal's bowling line-up run out of options.
The Nair-Pandey stand was shorter but more entertaining and exciting. The pair came together at 76 for 2 in the second session after Bhavane had been injured, and the umpires had decided to take lunch. For a new session, Pandey and Nair brought out a new plan - they unleashed a flurry of boundaries and doubled the score in no time. They hammered nine fours together in a space of five overs by targeting the pacers in the beginning. Pandey battered Dinda for three fours in the 33rd over and Nair used his late cut effectively against Shukla to pierce the gaps. Manoj Tiwary brought on Sourav Sarkar and Pragyan Ojha immediately, but could not bring any respite.
They weren't treated differently. Sarkar conceded two fours in an over and Pandey drove Ojha inside-out in the next over for consecutive overs. As both batsmen neared their fifties, Tiwary now brought Veer Pratap Singh and he was dispatched for three fours in two overs. While Pandey used more power, Nair relied more on timing and the pace of the ball to place the ball in gaps. Bengal finally got a break soon after Pandey's fifty, that featured nine fours, when the batsman pulled Shukla straight to midwicket.
Shukla was the only bowler to ask questions of the batsmen with a tight line. He had earlier been denied Pandey's wicket when the batsman was trapped in front of middle stump just after lunch, but the umpire had turned the appeal down. Shukla continued to toil after dismissing Pandey and made CM Gautam edge one but the keeper was up and the ball flew past him.
As the runs dried up before tea, Pragyan Ojha picked his maiden wicket for Bengal by extracting extra bounce to have Gautam caught at backward point with an excellent catch from Shreevats Goswami. Bengal might have thought of picking up a few more quick wickets, but Nair and Gopal dashed their hopes.
The two started slowly but steadily in the last session by nudging the ball around. The ball was over 50 overs old and Nair was already in his 60s. Tiwary brought himself on, Ojha started bowling outside leg, Shukla came back for another spell but Nair and Gopal negotiated each of them rather easily. Without any risks and aerial shots, they hauled the score past 300, their partnership crossing 100. Gopal stamped his authority by coming down to Ojha and pushing the ball firmly between mid-off and cover with sheer timing to inch closer to 50.
However, the Karnataka dressing room applauded the hardest and the school kids whistled the loudest when Nair cut Ojha late to the third-man boundary for four to reach his century. Nair followed it with a handsome cover drive for the same result. That hundred and Gopal's fourth first-class fifty soon took the hosts into the lead and a safe position.
Earlier, the platform for crossing 300 was laid by R Samarth (30) and Bhavane (32) once Dinda bowled opener Robin Uthappa for 3 in the third over. The brought up a fifty stand as Bhavane left plenty outside off and Samarth drove nicely on either side of the pitch. But Veer Pratap soon drew Samarth's outside edge as the ball held its line outside off to open up the batsman. The bigger blow came when Bhavane was hit on his right wrist by Dinda at the stroke of lunch against a rising short ball and was unable to drop his hands in time. Bhavane was declared fit by the end of the day and should be ready to bat on the third day.
Bengal could not add anything to their overnight 312 for 9, as Dinda swatted Vinay Kumar and was caught at mid-on on the second ball of the day. The Karnataka captain finished with 4 for 80.
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo