Karnataka were off to a cautious start on a flat pitch at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Day I of the Ranji Trophy semi-final against Uttar Pradesh here on Sunday.
With the ball hardly bouncing over the knee and the pitch being a bit slow, the batsmen never looked in a hurry and were 255 for four at stumps. Skipper Rahul Dravid was at the crease with Vinay Kumar.
All four batsmen who got out, failed to carry on after getting starts. Otherwise, there was nothing in the pitch for the bowlers.
It was a good toss to win for Karnataka, who are in the semi-finals after two years. Openers Robin Uthappa and K.B. Pawan started in style with the former slashing a powerful boundary off the first ball by R.P. Singh. There was one more boundary in the over. The over produced 10 runs.
With the quick bowlers hardly getting movement, Uttar Pradesh captain Mohammad Kaif brought in Praveen Gupta in the first hour itself, and the left-arm orthodox spinner soon got Uthappa, who tried to sweep a straight one to be trapped leg before. His 31 contained five boundaries.
Showing no signs of urgency, Pawan and the stylish G. Satish kept rotating the strike, stitching together 85 runs for the second wicket. Satish hit a few eye-catching boundaries, off Praveen Kumar and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, as the hosts took lunch at 98 for one.
In the second session, R.P. Singh struck twice in an over. He found some movement and dismissed Pawan and Satish with the second and sixth deliveries of his 11th over.
Pawan failed to read a straight one and edged a regulation catch to wicketkeeper Mohammad Amir Khan, and Satish failed to keep his bat away from a swinging one to be caught behind. Kaif rotated his bowlers frequently after that, but success was hard to come by.
Manish Pandey, Karnataka’s highest run getter this season, was a tough nut to crack. The batsman, who made 194 against the same team in their first match of the season, was on song again.
Playing with soft hands, Pandey cracked 11 fours in his 107-ball 66. He was aggressive and Dravid polished as ever during their 108-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
Pandey struck three consecutive boundaries in Gupta’s first over in the post-tea session before hitting back-to-back fours off Parvinder Singh. Just as it seemed he was on way to a big one, Pandey fell, chasing one from Praveen Kumar that was outside off stump.
With national selection committee chairman Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Narendra Hirwani watching the proceedings, the 20-year-old could have done well to play out the last three overs of the day.
But, he chose to throw away all the good work he had done through the season. But as long as he lasted, he made Kaif's men fret, bringing back memories of his imperious 194 in the Super League match at Meerut.