Ranji Trophy: Gopal-Mithun show lifts Karnataka to healthy lead

Shreyas Gopal followed up his first-innings fifty with an unbeaten 61 and his unbeaten 61-run, ninth-wicket stand with Abhimanyu Mithun holds the key in the context of the match.

Shreyas Gopal helped Karnataka recover from a precarious position.   -  Sudhakara Jain

Eleven wickets fell on an absorbing third day of the Ranji Trophy semifinal between Karnataka and Saurashtra at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Saturday. At stumps, Saurashtra had its nose in front with an overall lead of 276 and two second-innings wickets in hand.

Resuming its innings at 227 for seven, Saurashtra lasted only 16 minutes and 33 balls, adding nine runs to its overnight score. Three wickets fell in quick succession. Karnataka quick Ronit More finished with a six-wicket haul, while Abhimanyu Mithun — who got the prized wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara on day two — polished off the tail to scalp three.

The Agarwal resistance

Karnataka finished at 237/8, with a formidable second-innings lead despite wickets falling at regular intervals. Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Unadkat continued the ploy of bowling the fourth stump line. He dismissed R. Samarth for 5 (4x1) by angling the ball in, as usual, in his second over of the day.

The cracks on the wicket made the bounce uneven which allowed seamer Prerak Mankad to get one to sneak through the gate of Krishnamurthy Siddharth, who fell for 8 off 14 (4x1).

As it happened

On the other end, Mayank Agarwal, 46 off 77 (6x4), kept rotating the strike, leaving the tricky deliveries and finding the boundary off loose balls. Karun Nair, 15 off 26 (3x4), looked good at No 4 but he didn’t last long. Mankad’s deliveries were keeping low and one of them trapped Nair in front of his stumps. The 37-run fourth-wicket stand of Agarwal and Pandey helped the host recover from a precarious foothold of 26 for two to 52 for three to 89 for four. 

Pandey has been in good touch but he failed to capitalise in the middle overs. Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Saurashtra’s leading wicket-taker of the season, trapped him leg-before. 

After a couple of overs, Jadeja tossed up a classical off-spinner that moved away from Agarwal kissing his furniture. These two wickets had turned the tide for Saurashtra but Shreyas Gopal and Abhimanyu Mithun stitched a 61-run stand for the ninth wicket that helped the host extend its lead to 276 runs at the end of day’s play.

"I have been playing with Shreyas Gopal since school days. The last few days is the best he had batted. He has taken responsibility and played to the situation. Getting a fifty here in the second innings is like getting a 100. I hope he carries on, extends the lead and scores a 100 also. I don’t think any team batting here has done that well. No one seems to bat well here. Something happens. I think it is difficult to start on. Once you play for sometime, it gets easier. We have to change the trend. I don’t remember any team getting a 500 here [in the recent past]. The bowlers got us back into the game, they bowled brilliantly in the first innings. We didn’t bat well enough" -- Karnataka batsman Karun Nair.

On day four, Karnataka is likely to continue till its batsmen last.  A lead of 300-plus could put Pujara’s side under pressure.

Brief scores: Karnataka 275 & 237 for eight (Shreyas Gopal 61 not out, Mayank Agarwal 46; Jaydev Unadkat 3/35, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja three for 77) leads Saurashtra 236 (Snell Patel 85, Sheldon Jackson 46, Cheteshwar Pujara 45; Ronit More six for 60) by 276 runs