Baroda exploited familiar conditions to the hilt to leave Karnataka reeling on the opening day of their Ranji Trophy Elite Group A contest here. A remarkable 22 wickets fell at the Moti Baug ground on Monday, and at the end of all the hurly-burly Karnataka found itself two down in the second innings and 98 runs in arrears.
After Manish Pandey won the toss and elected to bat first on a damp pitch, Baroda's pacemen sliced through the top-order. Lukman Meriwala and Tushar Arothe were excellent with the new ball, moving it both ways, as Karnataka sank to 31 for five in the tenth over. The home side's spinners then joined the party as Karnataka was bundled out for 112 before lunch. Only Pandey (43) and B.R. Sharath (30) offered some resistance but the former was bowled playing an avoidable cross-batted shot.
Karnataka made six changes on the day, deciding to rest R. Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun. Baroda, chasing an outright win, was not complaining. On a drying surface, the touring seamers were unable to have the same impact as their counterparts. It took a while before Karnataka's spinners hit their stride, and though Shreyas Gopal and the debutante Shubhang Hegde took four wickets apiece, Baroda slipped away, grabbing a useful 111-run lead.
Karnataka had four overs to see out before the close of play and these were rather eventful. R. Samarth was bowled off the first ball of the second innings by Bhargav Bhatt and night-watchman Hegde was trapped leg-before later in the same over.
"People who've played at Moti Baug know how to bowl here," said Bhatt later. "There was moisture in the pitch and so the ball was cutting off the surface early on. There is turn for the spinners but it is not an alarming turn."
Bhatt did not find it surprising that Karnataka had chosen to bat first on a damp surface. “We might have done the same,” he said, suggesting that Baroda's pace-bowlers had made batting look harder
than it was.
Karnataka struggled in the first innings. Only Pandey and to a lesser extent K.V. Siddharth, who was caught behind driving, may be questioned about their choice of shot.
In the field, Karnataka ought to have done better. Vishnu Solanki should have been stumped on 18 off J. Suchith but B.R. Sharath, who replaced Sharath Srinivas, missed the chance. The same batsman top-edged a sweep on 46 when Ronit More, running in from fine-leg, misjudged what should have been a reasonably simple catch.
Solanki went on to score 69, adding 119 runs at a rapid pace (119b) in the company of Deepak Hooda for the third wicket.
The pair went after Hegde, who endured a chastening welcome to first-class cricket. The 18-year-old left-arm spinner conceded 27 runs off his first three overs before finding his rhythm to finish with four for 74. Hooda was his first Ranji Trophy victim, the batsman gloving the ball to silly point, where D. Nischal swooped low to snaffle a fine catch.
The fielder was later struck flush on the helmet fielding at forward-short-leg. He did not open the innings and was taken to hospital for a precautionary scan after the close of play, but is believed to be fine.
Brief scores: Karnataka 112 (M Pandey 43, Sharath BR 30; L Meriwala 3/22, B Bhatt 3/27) & 13/2 (KV Siddharth 11 not out; B Bhatt 2/7) trails Baroda 223 (V Solanki 69, D Hooda 51; S Gopal 4/47, S Hedge 4/74) by 98 runs
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