Karnataka captain Mayank Agarwal wouldn’t have bothered too much about losing the toss in the morning as his opening bowlers made early inroads and enabled the visitors to take control of the Ranji Trophy match against Kerala at the KCA-St. Xavier’s College ground on Tuesday.
In ideal conditions for swing bowling, the Karnataka medium pacers, V. Koushik and V. Vyshak, forced errors from Kerala’s top order batters to reduce it to 5/3.
It needed yet another rearguard century from Sachin Baby (116 batting) to carry the hosts to a respectable total of 224 for six at stumps on the opening day.
Sachin’s 10th Ranji Trophy century and his two crucial stands - 120 for the fourth wicket with Vathsal Govind (46) and an unbeaten 50 runs for the seventh wicket with Jalaj Saxena (31 batting) - kept Kerala alive in the contest.
The slide started in the opening over when the leaden-footed P. Rahul (0) missed the flick and was trapped in front by Koushik. Sachin walked in at the fall of Rohan Prem (0) who edged an outswinger from Vyshak to Devdutt Padikkal at second slip.
Rohan Kunnummal (5) after starting with an off-driven four, steered Koushik to Nikhil Jose at gully to leave Kerala in tatters.
Sachin and Vathsal survived the testing period from the medium pacers and when the pitch eased out both batters played their shots against the spinners.
The nudges and edges gave way to flowing drives and cuts from the blade of Sachin, as he along with Vathsal, put up a century stand to revive the innings.
However, Vathsal - after doing the hard work - threw his wicket away as he flashed at a wide ball from Koushik and gave a routine catch to wicketkeeper Sharath.
Koushik rearranged Salman Nizar’s stumps when the batter tried to cut the medium pacer. Akshay Chandran (17) resisted for a while adding 46 runs with Sachin for the sixth wicket. Sachin made the bulk of the runs in the partnership and progressed to his deserved hundred.
But Akshay, too, perished to a bad shot as his wild slog off Shreyas Gopal ended in the hands of Shubhang Hedge at short fine leg.
Sachin found support from Jalaj, who, after surviving a chance on nine when Mayank Agarwal dropped him in the slips off Gopal, played a crucial knock, which blunted the effectiveness of the Karnataka bowlers in the last session in which Kerala didn’t lose any wicket.