A result very likely in the face of a deteriorating pitch and two days of play left

Manish Pandey’s magnificent first century (177, 228b, 15x4, 3x6) of the season took Karnataka to a competitive first innings total of 396 on the third day of its Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Saurashtra at the University ground here on Tuesday.

Pandey was last man dismissed a few minutes before stumps when Jaydev Unadkat sprinted from long-off to the straight field to pull off a well-judged catch to put his side ahead by 73 runs in the first innings.

The match is far from over, though, in terms of having identified the qualifier for the semifinal.

There are 180 overs left in the match and the bright cricket played by the likes of Robin Uthappa and Pandey that largely contributed to 351 runs scored at more than four runs an over on the day has made possible a fourth innings outcome.

“The match is still wide open. The pitch is deteriorating and our aim would be to restrict Saurashtra to 180, or even 150 in the second innings. It would be difficult to chase a target of 220 plus in the fourth innings, especially on a turning track,” said Karnataka skipper Stuart Binny.

Resuming at 45 for no loss, Karnataka made a positive start. Uthappa made the most of error in length from medium pacer Chirag Jani with well-timed drives in the arc between square point and mid-off.

Rahul played a few cuts and the opening pair seemed determined to repel an attack that switched quickly from pace to spin.

It was left-arm seamer Unadkat though who got the breakthrough, forcing an on-side deflection from Uthappa (60, 66b, 11x4) into the hands of ’keeper Sagar Jogiyani.

The home team gained the upper hand when off-spinner Kamlesh Makwana, by his sheer accuracy, got rid of Kunal Kapoor, C.M. Gautam and Binny.

Karnataka declined from 95 for no loss to 206 for five. Pandey and Binny added 52 for the fifth wicket.

Pandey dominated the bowlers with a variety of shots and even came down the pitch to hit boundaries.

Left-hander Amit Verma (84 minutes), Karthik Gowtham (28 minutes) and Abhimanyu Mithun (84 minutes) gave him valuable company and helped raise 190 runs.

“JAC (coach J. Arun Kumar) and I insisted that he play his natural game and smart cricket. He is at his best when he plays freely. We did not plan not to cheer his half-century; it was just that we wanted him to continue and make a big effort,” said Binny.

The scores:

Saurashtra — 1st innings: 469.

Karnataka — 1st innings: K.L. Rahul c Makwana b Joshi 55, R. Uthappa c Jogiyani b Unadkat 60, K. Kapoor c Jogiyani b Makwana 2, C.M. Gautam lbw b Makwana 5, M. Pandey c Unadkat b Joshi 177, S. Binny lbw b Makwana 16, A. Verma c Jogiyani b D. Jadeja 30, K. Gowtham c Unadkat b Joshi 6, A. Mithun lbw b D. Jadeja 31, K.P. Appanna b D. Jadeja 4, H.S. Sharath (not out) 0; Extras (b-8, lb-1, nb-1): 10; Total (in 102.2 overs): 396.

Fall of wickets: 1-95, 2-106, 3-112, 4-154, 5-206, 6-286, 7-306, 8-386, 9-396.

Saurashtra bowling: Unadkat 19-4-49-1, Jani 5-1-22-0, Joshi 27.2-3-103-3, D. Jadeja 28-2-122-3, Makwana 23-1-91-3.

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