Group B topper Karnataka suffered its worst start this Ranji Trophy season and were bundled out for 179 on the opening day of the Round 7 game against Odisha at the Services Sports Complex here on Monday. At stumps, Odisha was 42 for two with captain Govinda Poddar on 16 and Dhiraj Singh yet to score.
Karnataka had previously managed 267 against Vidarbha with the lower-order coming good after the main batsmen faltered. On Monday, however, C. M. Gautam played a lone hand even as the Karnataka batsmen fell to a combination of poor shots. Gautam top-scored with 54 but there was lack of support from the other end. He brought up his 50 with a drive through point for two runs, and followed it up with a four to midwicket, before being caught at deep cover to bring down the curtains on Karnataka's innings. His half century had eight fours all around the field.
“It was a below par score, we were looking at something like 300 here but it happens, it was an off day. But so far we have always been comfortably placed so this would be a good challenge to fight back and get a result,” Gautam admitted.
If half of the team fails to get into double digits, there has to either be a serious problem with the pitch or a complete lack of application from the batting unit. Even though the two captains had agreed before the game that the pitch appeared favourable to seamers, it wasn't a minefield. The ball did rise occasionally and there was early movement – expected at this time of the year in the city – but neither the pitch nor the bowlers, who did well to stick to bowling close to the stumps, were unplayable.
The former champion had a bad start, Mayank Agarwal going for a non-existent single and being run out by wicketkeeper Saurabh Rawat from short fine leg with just six runs on board. Samarth R. and Robin Uthappa tried rebuilding the innings and put together 52 runs for the second wicket but Samarth too was run out. Three balls later, Uthappa edged to third slip to give Alok Mangaraj his only wicket with the score being 58 for three. The top three in-form batsmen falling early had a huge impact, Gautam agreed.
Thereafter, there were hardly any scores or partnerships of note as no batsman tried to settle down before attempting the big shots. Ronit More hung on for a stubborn four runs in 35 balls but was finally bowled by Basant Mohanty. Karnataka was 95 for six at one point with the top order gone before Gautam restored some stability. Captain Vinay Kumar hit the first six of the innings in the 44th over over long on and Gowtham K. tried to accelerate and struck two huge ones – over long off and deep midwicket – off Dhiraj Singh but both fell trying to attack but failing to read the bounce.
Two wickets towards the end of day's play helped Karnataka comeback into the game. But with the Palam pitch known to ease out from the second day onwards, its bowlers need to strike early to try and get a result.
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