Robin Uthappa turned 25 on Thursday and showed that he had truly come of age. The opener-turned-middle-order batsman displayed tremendous maturity during his 149 to firmly put Karnataka in a position from where it can press for an outright victory over Punjab in the Ranji Trophy super league match over the next two days.
Aided by Uthappa's eighth century in the National championship and first in the middle-order, Karnataka finished a batsmen-dominated second day at 346 for six. After drawing level with Punjab's 243 at the stroke of tea, Karnataka established a lead of 103 runs with four wickets in hand.
Notably, the brisk scoring rate was due to the visiting side's positive approach all day and the host's very ordinary effort on the field. Uthappa, Ganesh Satish and Manish Pandey took turns to step up the run-rate which in turn has helped the team put more pressure on Punjab.
Man of the moment
But the man of the moment was the ‘birthday boy'. Robin's well-planned innings proved that the otherwise flamboyant opener had it in him to fit into the more patient role assigned by the team for the longer duration of the game.
“I've learnt to stay in the present and not look too far ahead. I want to contribute to the team in every possible way. Today, I wanted to rotate the strike, make it difficult for the bowlers to find the rhythm and build partnerships. I am glad things worked out well,” said Uthappa, rating the century as among the better ones of his career.
Uthappa, who scored over 1200 runs two seasons ago but ended the last season without a century despite four half centuries, straightaway got a big one here. Known for his stroke-play, he gave the innings the impetus it needed after an understandably cautious start that was followed by the departure of openers K. B. Pawan and debutant K. L. Rahul. Pawan was unlucky to be given caught behind after the ball from Manpreet Gony went off his thigh-pad while Rahul fell fending a ball.
Uthappa, who crossed the 4,000 first-class runs during the innings, hit two sixes, gained another ‘six' – including four overthrows – and smashed 16 boundaries before he was run out.
Punjab — 1st innings: 243.
Karnataka — 1st innings: K.B. Pawan c Kaul b Gony 12, K.L. Rahul c and b Sidhu 18, G. Satish (run out) 55, R. Uthappa (run out) 149, M. Pandey c Dharmani b Sidhu 49, A. Verma (batting) 21, C.M. Gautam c Kanwar b Rajwinder 6, R. Vinay Kumar (batting) 7, Extras (b-8, kb-8, nb-7, w-6) 29; Total (for six wkts. in 90 overs) 346.
Fall of wickets: 1-23, 2-52, 3-182, 4-271, 5-316, 6-330.
Punjab bowling: Harmeet 14-1-46-0, Gony 18-1-73-1, Sidhu 22-2-86-2, Rajwinder 22-2-63-1, Bhalla 3-0-15-0, Goel 7-2-25-0, Yuvraj 4-0-22-0 .