Ranji Trophy 2019-20: Himachal comfortably placed after Khanduri, Gangta rearguards

Priyanshu Khanduri and Nikhil Gangta's patient knocks followed by a whirlwind fifty by Rishi Dhawan (72, 96b, 7x4, 3x6) placed Himachal Pradesh on a firm footing.

Himachal Pradesh batsman Nikhil Gangta during his 46-run knock against Karnataka in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy in Mysuru.   -  N. SUDARSHAN

First-rate rearguard actions by Priyanshu Khanduri (69, 240b, 8x4) and Nikhil Gangta (46, 103b, 5x4, 1x6) followed by a whirlwind half-century by Rishi Dhawan (72, 96b, 7x4, 3x6) placed Himachal Pradesh on the ascendancy on day two of its Ranji Trophy encounter against Karnataka at the SDNR Wadiyar Stadium here on Thursday.

A stunning recovery from 32/4 saw Himachal reach 235/7 at stumps, giving it a sizeable 69-run first-innings lead before bad light stopped play. If not for the late two-wicket burst by V. Koushik, during which he removed Khanduri and Ankush Bains, courtesy excellent catches by R. Samarth at first-slip and wicket-keeper B.R. Sharath respectively, the touring side would have been on a firmer footing.

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Himachal lost Mayank Dagar early in the morning when he paid the price for fending outside off to a ball from Abhimanyu Mithun. But in the absence of any appreciable help for the bowlers, despite a dense cloud cover, Khanduri and Gangta went about their tasks unperturbed.

Opener Khanduri, whose highest score coming into this match was 15, could have hardly been more austere in his stroke-play. In both the 90-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Gangta and the 75-run association with Dhawan, the 24-year-old held one end up.

On the rare occasions he allowed himself some freedom, there were some delectable shots, like the two cover drives off Mithun and a loft straight back over left-arm spinner J. Suchith’s head.

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Dhawan makes merry

"The pitch was a bit double-paced and that made batting a bit hard,” said Khanduri later. “You had to spend time and that's exactly what I did. A great example was Karun Nair who took so much time to score runs [on day one]. He’s an international cricketer and that was the way to go."

Dhawan, though, seemed to be batting on an entirely different wicket. As the skies cleared and the afternoon sun beat down, he made merry. He took a particular liking to Shreyas Gopal, smacking him for back-to-back boundaries and then hoisting the leggie over mid-on for a maximum.

Suchith was next to suffer as he was carted over mid-wicket before Dhawan walked down the wicket and sent speedster Prateek Jain soaring over the long-on boundary for the standout shot of the day. The 29-year-old’s second fifty of the season took just 61 balls and couldn’t have come at a better time.

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