Ranji Trophy: Karnataka struggles against Odisha

The Group B topper has a lead of 81 runs as C.M. Gautam got his second half century of the game and along with captain R. Vinay Kumar managed to keep his team alive after another disappointing show from the top order.

Karnataka batsman C.M. Gautam in action against Odisha.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Eight-time champion Karnataka struggled to save the game against Odisha after being 244 for six in its second innings on Day Three of the Round VII Ranji Trophy match at the Services Sports Complex here on Wednesday. The Group B topper has a lead of 81 runs as C.M. Gautam got his second half century of the game and along with captain R. Vinay Kumar managed to keep his team alive after another disappointing show from the top order.

> Scorecard

Gautam was unbeaten on 68 and Shreyas Gopal was batting on 11, having survived a run-out in the second last over, at the end of day's play. Earlier, Basant Mohanty and Alok Mangaraj added 24 runs to the overnight score before Mohanty was bowled by Ronit More as Odisha ended its first innings on 342 for a 163-run lead.

On a pitch that Vinay Kumar had claimed would be of little assistance to slow bowling, the leg-spin of Shreyas Gopal had been the only bright spot for his team on Day Two. And it was the left-arm spin of Dhiraj Singh that caused maximum problem for the Karnataka batting in its second essay.

With the pitch becoming slow and the ball staying low except for the odd one turning or rising unexpectedly off the cracks, there was not much for the bowlers but it didn't make strokeplay easy either. The Karnataka batsmen were guilty of impatience, falling despite getting the starts, and constrained by some disciplined fielding by Odisha before Gautam and Vinay Kumar displayed resistance mixed with aggression.

Mayank Agarwal's poor run with the bat as an opener continued, falling for just seven. Samarth R and Robin Uthappa accelerated, scoring at over five an over and hoping to overhaul the deficit early, before Dhiraj struck for the first of his three wickets. His very first delivery kept low and straight and Uthappa was out leg-before for 32, reducing the run-flow to a trickle.

Kaunain Abbas went for duck but Samarth tried to keep the scoreboard moving with Stuart Binny, who looked settled before throwing away his wicket. Binny, dropped on 1 as the ball flew off an outside edge and scraped wicketkeeper Saurabh Rawat's fingertips, hit two a huge six over square leg and two fours off Suryakant Pradhan just before lunch as Karnataka looked to have recovered from the early losses.

But Samarth fell soon after, the ball bouncing more than he expected and taking an edge instead of the middle of the bat to be caught at cover by captain Govinda Poddar for 49. Stuart, meanwhile, drove and pulled with control, launching Dhiraj for a four and six off consecutive balls straight down the ground in the 35th over. Poddar brought himself on in the 37th and ended Stuart's 32-run cameo with the first ball as he tried to drive to third man but edged to Sandeep Pattanaik at first slip, Karnataka still 30 runs in arrears.

With another collapse looming, Gautam and Vinay Kumar steadied the ship, grinding out 98 runs for the sixth wicket, finally levelling scores with a single pushed towards mid-on by Gautam in the 47th over. Gautam's 50 came in a similar fashion but Vinay Kumar fell to a rising delivery from Biplab Samantaray late in the day, edging to 2nd slip, for 41 in 107 balls but not before ensuring some respectability to the team score.

Umpire substitution as David Millns falls sick

English umpire David Millns was replaced by Dharmesh Bhardwaj from the BCCI panel of umpires on the third day of the game between Karnataka and Odisha here after reporting unwell. Millns felt uneasy and unable to stand in the game in the morning and was taken to a doctor for check-up, suspecting food poisoning. Millns was reported to have high fever and advised rest and medicines. He, however, refused to take any medicines and preferred to only rest it off and is expected to return to duty on the final day. Umpire Tapan Sharma officiated from both ends for the first half hour's play on the day, through the end of the Odisha innings, before Bhardwaj, registered with the DDCA, joined him in the middle for Karnataka's second innings. In the previous round, Australian umpire Sam Nogajski had to be hospitalised with food poisoning after the first day's play between Mumbai and UP at Mysore.