On a day of fluctuating fortunes, some reckless batting from Karnataka allowed a whole-hearted Uttar Pradesh to stage a fine comeback as the Group B Ranji Trophy encounter remained in the balance here on Wednesday.
Karnataka had seized the advantage on the second morning when veteran pacer Abhimanyu Mithun’s 6/60 saw the visitors, resuming from 232/5, bowled out for 281 in 111.2 overs at the KSCA Stadium. Then, led by the brilliance of in-form teenager Devdutt Padikkal (74, 108b, 10×4) and the young D Nischal (36, 90b, 4×4), coupled with Uttar Pradesh being rendered a bowler short after lead pacer Ankit Rajpoot hurt his right hamstring injury (6-1-16-0), Karnataka looked well on course to take complete control of the contest.
Padikkal, who amassed 609 runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and 580 runs in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, batted with confidence and authority while partner Nischal was his usual compact self. Both looked untroubled during their stay as the UP attack, missing Rajpoot on a batting friendly pitch, looked completely toothless.
When things were completely going Karnataka’s way, Nischal first handed an opening for UP nine balls before tea. Trying to flick an innocuous delivery from left-arm orthodox bowler Saurabh Kumar, Nischal completely missed the ball and it ricocheted off his pads onto the stumps.
The totally out of sorts R Samarth, getting a nod in this game ahead of the in-form Rohan Kadam, then joined Padikkal at the centre. The lack of runs and the mounting pressure was evident on Samarth despite a couple of hits to the fence. In short, during his stay, he looked like a walking wicket. Samarth put an end to his misery when he played far away from his body to a Mohit Jangra (2/56) pitched-up delivery. The ball taking an inside edge and crashing onto his stumps.
The virus of Samarth and Nischal then spread to the free-stroking Padikkal. The teenager, playing some attractive shots through the cover and looking on course for a maiden first-class ton, played the same shot as Samarth against the same bowler. The result was same — inside edge onto stumps.
From 91/1, Karnataka slipped to 127/3, all the good work undone through poor shot selection.
The onus of steadying the ship then rested on skipper Karun Nair and returning Abhishek Reddy. Nair too has been in the middle of a wretched run and this was a perfect chance to get back among the runs. UP were on top but the bowling wasn’t penetrative and the wicket flat.
Nair though played a needless shot to allow UP take control of the contest.
UP set the short ball trap and the right-hander fell prey. He chose to pull Shubham Mavi but with no timing and power, the ball landed safely into the hands of Madhav Kaushik at deep fine leg. The need of the hour at that stage with stumps imminent was caution rather than bravado and Nair succumbed to his ego.
Shreyas Gopal (8) and Reddy (23) saw off the next 10 overs but at 168/4 and still 113 runs adrift, Karnataka have some climbing to do from the hole they’ve dug themselves into.