Karun Nair created an innings of substance, character and some scintillating strokeplay.

To the Jammu & Kashmir bowlers, he was the great barrier. For Karnataka, Karun was the saviour.

Finding his batting rhythm so soon after recovering from COVID-19, Karun remained firm even as wickets fell around him.

Returning to a city where he conjured a Test match triple hundred, Karun took flight at the quaint IIT-Chemplast ground.

He was unbeaten on a compelling 152 (267b, 21x4, 1x6) as Karnataka ended a combative first day of this Ranji contest at 268 for eight.

Karnataka rightly opted to bat. As the match wears on, there could be appreciable assistance for the spin bowlers.

This said, the most influential spell of the day — a burst that punctured Karnataka innings — was sent down by Umran Malik.

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In a display of brutal pace, Malik had the in-form K. Siddharth caught in the cordon and forced Manish Pandey to send the ball ballooning for a tame catch off a nasty short-pitched delivery.

In a spell of 5-0-10-2, Umran had pushed Karnataka on the backfoot, dismissing two batsmen who made hundreds in the last game.

Earlier, southpaw Devdutt Padikkal was held in the slips off left-arm seamer Mujtaba Yousuf who got his line right.

R. Samarth essayed some attractive strokes for his 45 — he is a capable puller — before falling to an Abdul Samad leg-break.

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Karun was Karnataka’s back-bone. When on song he is such a fine driver of the ball off either foot, between cover and point.

He flicked and on-drove with panache. His backfoot punches pierced the off-side field.

And he built partnerships. Karun and Samarth added 98 for the second wicket. And he put on 58 in a defiant eighth-wicket stand with Ronit More (23) who was eventually leg-before to Mujtaba off the day’s final delivery.

Off-spinner Parvez Rasool bowled with control — there was turn for him too — and he got Shreyas Gopal stumped down the leg-side and K. Gowtham taken in the deep.

Day two could be pivotal to the fortunes of the teams.