Ranji Trophy: Karnataka inches closer to semifinal berth

Karnataka claimed a 259-run lead against Jammu & Kashmir at the end of day four in a Ranji Trophy quarterfinal fixture in Jammu.

Karnataka bowler Prasidh Krishna took four wickets to help his team claim a 14-run first innings lead against J&K on Sunday.   -  R.V. Moorthy

Karnataka produced a clinical bowling effort to snatch a 14-run first-innings lead over Jammu & Kashmir in thrilling fashion on the penultimate day of their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal.

The home side was 14 runs in arrears with three wickets in hand when the dangerous Abdul Samad attempted a slog-sweep off J. Suchith. The ball ballooned up in the air and the bowler completed a vital catch. Prasidh Krishna (4/42) then trapped Aquib Nabi LBW before bursting through Umar Nazir's defence with a searing yorker. J & K had lost three wickets for no runs in the space of six balls.

Advantage secured, Karnataka calmly went about shutting J & K out of the contest. K.V. Siddharth (75 n.o.) and R. Samarth (74) scored patient half-centuries as the touring side piled on the runs. At stumps at the Gandhi Science Memorial College on Sunday, Karnataka was 245 for four, and within touching distance of a spot in the semifinals. Things had looked vastly different in the morning. J & K resumed on 88 for two, and overnight batsmen Shubham Khajuria and Shubham Pundir navigated the first half hour without damage.

It was then that Prasidh broke through. The fast bowler left Pundir looking clueless for two full overs before finally trapping the batsman in front for 25. J & K captain Parvez Rasool then tossed his wicket away, virtually steering Prasidh into the hands of Siddharth at second slip. As his side's most accomplished batsman, Rasool ought to have done a lot better. His exit, for 1, left J & K four down for 109.

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Ronit More replaced Prasidh from one end while Karun Nair turned to Suchith at the other. Khajuria, who had scored 62 watchful runs, then lost his restraint, driving at a More delivery away from his body to be caught behind.

But the mounting pressure appeared to have no effect on Samad. The 18-year-old has already carved out a reputation as a powerful striker of the ball. He lived up to that image with some delightfully clean hitting. Prasidh was lashed over the head of the cover fielder for four.

Abhimanyu Mithun was cut to the third-man boundary and then whipped through square-leg. More strayed in line and was casually flicked away. Suchith was then thumped out of the ground and into the river ("Tawi mein gaya," a member of the ground staff said). It was as if a jolt of electricity had passed through the crowd.

But Karnataka kept pressing. More sent Fazil Rashid's leg-stump flying before Abid Mushtaq was run out. Nabi (14) and Samad (43, 50b, 6x4, 1x6) added 24 runs for the eighth wicket, steering their side to the brink of the first-innings lead. And then J & K hearts were broken.

- PRASIDH: SAMAD'S WICKET WAS IMPORTANT -

"We knew the lead was important for us but we didn't think only about the lead. We also made sure we didn't give away too many runs. We knew we could make a comeback even if we had conceded the lead," Prasidh said at the end of day's play.

Prasidh was then asked about Karnataka's plans for Abdul Samad. "We didn't really plan for him specifically. It was an important wicket, but we were happy with anybody getting out because with wickets falling at the other end, we put pressure on him. And that’s what led to a faulty shot from him,” he added.

Prasidh revealed that as the tension rose, the desire to compete had spurred him on. "When I started off yesterday, I wasn’t feeling that good. What happens with these kinds of matches is that the pressure gets the best out of you. The pressure to perform kept me going,” he concluded.

THE SCORES:

Karnataka -- 1st innings: 206.

Jammu & Kashmir -- 1st innings: 192.

Karnataka -- 2nd innings: 245/4.

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