Karnataka’s spinners fail to exploit conditions conducive to spin bowling

Cheteshwar Pujara scored a blistering unbeaten 261 (275b, 40x4, 1x6) against Karnataka here on Wednesday and has almost put Saurashtra in the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy. Only last week Pujara scored an unbeaten 203 against Madhya Pradesh to help his team enter the knockout stage.

Saurashtra’s likely opponent would be Punjab which has gained the vital first innings lead against Jharkhand at Jamsehdpur.

On a day when Karnataka’s spinners were expected to make inroads on a pitch that had rough spots caused by bowlers’ footmarks, Saurashtra pummelled the two main spinners — K.P. Appanna and Krishnappa Gowtham.

It scored at almost five runs an over and posted 195 before lunch and thereafter finished the fourth day at a formidable 463 for three. The home team leads by an overall 536 and it has no intention of declaring when play resumes on Thursday at the University ground.

Scheduled to join the Indian team for the one-day international series against England that will start here on Saturday, a delighted Pujara said, “I don’t think the Karnataka spinners bowled in the right areas. The wicket was affording turn, but their spinners did not show maturity.

“They became defensive after we scored heavily in the first session. Even if we had collapsed after lunch we would have still left them a target of around 350 which would have been tough to score.

“It was after I got through to my century that I began to play reverse sweeps and the paddle sweep shots. I don’t know if I will bat tomorrow. I have to find out from the team management.’’

Pujara arrived at the wicket after the fall of Sitanshuk Kotak in the sixth over of the morning session with left arm spinner Appanna winning an appeal from Subrata Das for a caught at the wicket decision.

Kotak took a long time to leave the crease, but once he left Pujara quickly got his eye in and showed his usual range of shots on either side of the wicket, especially the forcing shot rocking on his back foot. He played neat carpet drives between cover and mid off and judged the length to perfection to employ the sweep and pull shots.

He was lucky though when on 96 he slashed at Abhimanyu Mithun and saw the shot speed to the third-man fence though K.L. Rahul’s hands at slip. It was a sharp chance, but it turned out to be a costly lapse.

He may have had another bit of fortune when umpire K. Hariharan turned down an appeal when he attempted a hook shot and seemed to have touched the short ball from H.S. Sharath to the keeper.

Pujara and Sagar Jogiyani (70, 98b, 10x4, 1x6) added 89 runs for the second wicket in the course of a roaring first session. Then he was involved in a 105-run stand for the third wicket with Jaydev Shah before the unbroken stand of 243 for the fourth with Sheldon Jackson (70 batting, 116b, 8x4, 1x6).

What is of interest in the match is whether Pujara would report at the ground and proceed to score a triple century.

The scores: Saurashtra — 1st innings: 469.

Karnataka — 1st innings: 396.

Saurashtra — 2nd innings: S. Kotak c Gautam b Appanna 7, S. Jogiyani c Gautam b Gowtham 70, C. Pujara (batting) 261, J. Shah c sub b Sharath 31, S. Jackson (batting) 70; Extras (b-7, lb-10, nb-6, w-1): 24; Total (for 3 wickets in 90 overs): 463.

Fall of wickets: 1-26, 2-115, 3-220.

Karnataka bowling: Mithun 10-0-52-0, Appanna 28-0-118-1, Gowtham 21-2-118-1, Verma 15-2-63-0, Rahul 3-0-28-0, Binny 4-0-22-0, Sharath 9-0-45-1.

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