R. Samarth was not at his fluent best but he ultimately found a way. At the KSCA Navule Stadium on Tuesday, the Karnataka opener kept his nose to the grindstone and earned his reward. After Madhya Pradesh had won the toss and put the home side in, run-making proved tricky on a pitch that was amenable to seam-bowling.
Samarth played and missed a few times, edged a ball that landed short of first slip, and seemed stuck in a rut. But he laboured on nonetheless, notching up a resolute, tenth first-class hundred.
With K.V. Siddharth making the most of a reprieve at the other end, Karnataka steadily wore Madhya Pradesh down on the first day of this Group-B Ranji Trophy tie. At stumps, the host was 233/3 in 86 overs, having firmly seized the advantage.
In the morning, Madhya Pradesh's pace bowlers struck early. Devdutt Padikkal fell in the day's second over, edging left-armer Ravi Yadav behind. Wicketkeeper Himanshu Mantri pulled off a fine catch, diving low to his left. Rohan Kadam spent over an hour at the crease for his nine runs, but his stay ended at the stroke of the first drinks break.
Gourav Yadav, who had consistently moved the ball away from the left-handed Kadam, got the batsman to push one to second slip.
Karun Nair seemed determined to battle it out. He spent over two hours at the crease to accumulate his 22 runs, and seemed in control until he was snared by Kuldeep Sen a little after lunch. Kuldeep felt he had two wickets in two deliveries when he got Siddharth to edge behind first ball. But it appeared that the bowler had overstepped. Siddharth punished Madhya Pradesh for this largesse, finishing the day unbeaten on 62.
Meanwhile, Samarth grew in confidence as the day wore on. He left the ball well, refusing to reach for anything outside the off-stump. At lunch, he was on 25 off 103 balls, the runs coming in a trickle. In the second session, he added only 27 to his tally. But as Madhya Pradesh flagged after tea, Samarth capitalised. He remained unbeaten on 105, having added 150 runs for the fourth wicket with Siddharth.
The pair was applauded off the field as a tired Madhya Pradesh unit returned to the pavilion.
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