Ranji Trophy 2019-20: Koushik, Jain save Karnataka the blushes after meek surrender

If not for Prateek Jain and V. Koushik, who rocked the Himachal top-order by sending back Prashanth Chopra and Ankit Kalsi, it would have been a largely forgettable day.

Karnataka skipper Karun Nair during his 81-run knock against Himachal Pradesh during the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy in Mysuru.   -  N. Sudarshan

Karun Nair (81, 185b, 8x4) stood tall among the ruins as an abject batting performance saw Karnataka being bowled out for 166 by Himachal Pradesh on day one of the Ranji Trophy encounter at the SDNR Wadiyar Stadium here on Wednesday.

If not for pacemen Prateek Jain and V. Koushik, who rocked the Himachal top-order by sending back key batsmen in Prashanth Chopra and Ankit Kalsi and reduced the side to 29/3, it would have been a largely forgettable day.

After the home side elected to bat on a breezy morning, speedster Kanwar Abhinay, who last played a First-Class match two years ago, wreaked havoc with a five-wicket haul (15-6-37-5), snaring both Mayank Agarwal and Devdutt Padikkal for nought.

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Partial solar eclipse on Thursday morning has pushed the start of the second day's play in the Karnataka-Himachal Pradesh match by close to two hours. As a result, there will only be 79 overs of action instead of the usual quota of 90 overs.

Following a communication by the BCCI, match officials, in consultation with the host KSCA, decided to start the match at 11.15 a.m., ten minutes after the eclipse ends.

Revised session timings: Morning: 11.15 to 12.00; Post lunch: 12.40 to 15.10 ; Post tea: 15.30 to 17.30.

Mayank slashed at the very first delivery of the day only to be caught behind, while Padikkal couldn’t keep a flick down and was snapped up at square-leg. R. Samarth began with a sweetly timed four down the ground but his stay was short-lived too as Abhinay trapped him in front.

In a deadly first spell that read 7-4-12-3, the burly speed merchant had a wicket to show in each of his first three overs. It was left to Karun to arrest the momentum, which he first did by driving Abhinay immaculately to the cover boundary.

At the other end, D. Nischal held out for 47 deliveries before Rishi Dhawan had his measure. It brought Shreyas Gopal to the crease and with Karun, he put on 56 runs for the fifth wicket. The duo looked comfortable for large tracts of the partnership with Shreyas, in particular, using his feet well.

But a lapse in judgement cost Shreyas dear as he fell leg-before while shouldering arms to pacer Vaibhav Arora. It was only three balls earlier that the latter had had to digest a drop off Karun Nair (on 38) by Sumit Verma at gully.

Karun capitalised and brought up a much-needed half-century with a beautiful straight drive off Arora. Abhimanyu Mithun added 21 valuable runs in the company of his captain before Abhinay forced a hook and had him caught by the ‘keeper for his fifth scalp. The 28-year-old let out a huge cry in the direction of Mithun, which the latter didn’t approve of.

Running out of partners, Karun attempted a pull but couldn’t clear the deep mid-wicket fielder. With the benefit of hindsight, though, it appears that Karun has given his team just about enough breathing space.

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