DINDIGUL : Just when it looked like Tamil Nadu lost the plot after first innings, they came back harder on Wednesday to keep themselves alive against Karnataka in their Ranji Trophy opener.After getting bowled out for 307 and conceding a first-innings lead of 29, Vijay Shankar & Co sent half of Karnataka’s batsmen back to the pavilion by the end of Day 3. At stumps, Karnataka were 89/5, leading by 118. Devdutt Padikkal hung on with an unbeaten 29 off 106, steadying Karnataka after their early collapse.
In an action-packed second innings, Tamil Nadu struck as early as the second over. A direct hit from skipper Vijay from mid-off removed in-form opener Mayank Agarwal for eight. It was then pacer K Vignesh’s turn. He dismissed Dega Nischal and skipper Karun Nair inside 10 overs. The situation only became worse for Karnataka as two more batsmen fell prey to R Ashwin. In no time, the visitors were reeling at 59/5. But Padikkal and BR Sharath (25 n.o) made sure they did not lose any more wickets.
The first half of the day was headlined by Dinesh Karthik’s 113, followed by K Gowtham’s heroics with the ball. It was Karthik’s lone act that kept Tamil Nadu in their quest of first-innings lead for a long time.
From an overnight score of 165/4, he put on 59 for the fifth wicket with wicketkeeper-batsman N Jagadeesan (29 off 66). Known to score runs at a quick pace, Karthik — who was on the field for nearly 340 minutes, spanning over two days — curbed his instincts and played a patient a 235-ball knock that helped Tamil Nadu cross 300.
“A lot of times, I wanted to do a lot of things differently,” said Karthik after day’s play. “But you have to control. You have to take the team into account as well, make sure what’s important for the team. After playing 10-15 years, you play a reckless shot just because you know to play a shot. That’s very immature on my part.”
Karthik’s knock was a blend of caution and aggression, and included 16 fours. Seven of them came after the team lost seven wickets for 254, and were left trailing by 82. However, spinning all-rounder Gowtham once again proved to be a thorn in Tamil Nadu’s flesh. After defending five runs in three balls in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy final two weeks ago, his 6/110 denied Vijay’s men a first-innings lead.
After removing Murali Vijay, Abhinav Mukund and Vijay on Tuesday, Gowtham accounted for the big wicket of Karthik on Wednesday. On the other hand, poor shot-selection again came back to haunt Tamil Nadu. Both left-arm spinners M Siddharth and R Sai Kishore threw their wickets, despite supporting Karthik being the need of the hour. Had it not been for Vignesh and Ashwin, the team would not have had any hope of a comeback.
Heading into what promises to be a dramatic final day in Dindigul, Karnataka will look to southpaw Padikkal to do what Karthik did for Tamil Nadu: grind. Brief scores: Karnataka 336 & 89/5 (Vignesh 2/11, R Ashwin 2/30) vs Tamil Nadu 307 (Karthik 113; Gowtham 6/110).