Ranji Trophy 2019-20: Dinesh Karthik keeps Tamil Nadu in the hunt

Replying to Karnataka’s first innings 336, Tamil Nadu was 165 for four when bad light ended play on the second day on Tuesday.

Much of Tamil Nadu’s hopes depend on the battling Dinesh Karthik, who has faced 71 deliveries for his unbeaten 23. (File Picture)   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

The contest is on a razor’s edge. One weighty partnership can give Tamil Nadu the lead in its Ranji Trophy fixture against Karnataka in Dindigul. A brace of wickets may swing things in Karnataka’s favour.

It’s crunch time at the NPR ground. Replying to Karnataka’s first innings 336, Tamil Nadu was 165 for four when bad light ended play on the second day on Tuesday.

Much of Tamil Nadu’s hopes depend on the battling Dinesh Karthik, who has faced 71 deliveries for his unbeaten 23. The pitch has slowed down, the ball has started to grip, and run-making is not easy.

As it happened| Ranji Trophy 2019-20: Mumbai, Manipur, Railways assert control after day two

The day was dominated by the free-spirited K. Gowtham who followed his whirlwind 51 (39b, 4x4, 4x6) with three crucial wickets bowling off-spin.

Gowtham delivers

The Karnataka plan was simple. It would choke the runs with the pacemen doing the holding job from one end and the lanky Gowtham would seek wickets from the other with his turn, bounce and use of crease.

Gowtham trapped M. Vijay leg-before with a delivery that spun back, had southpaw Abhinav Mukund caught behind with a delivery that turned away and won a contentious leg-before decision over a shell-shocked Vijay Shankar, who was struck well above his knee.   

Vijay and Mukund, the experienced right-left opening pair, built a platform for Tamil Nadu putting on 81 in 145 balls.

Vijay (32) handled the Karnataka pace attack, led by Ronit More, with timing, footwork and balance.

The efficient Mukund whipped More to the fence and then off-drove him gloriously. Both openers promised more. 

And the tenacious Baba Aparajith (37, 86b, 3x4, 1x6), who put a price on his wicket, was caught behind by a mean away seamer off the impressive More.

Baffling tactics

Tamil Nadu’s tactics in the morning were baffling. Why was the side’s No. 1 bowler R. Ashwin, who had got the ball to turn and bounce on day one, brought in only in the 15th over of the day after Karnataka had added valuable runs?

And R. Ashwin, adept in bowling with the new ball, should have operated from the media box end right from the start in a pace-spin combination with the zestful K. Vignesh, who had Shreyas Gopal (35) caught behind by a diving ‘keeper N. Jagadeesan in the morning.

Once Ashwin was belatedly brought on, he ended the 52-run eight-wicket partnership between David Mathias (26) - caught at short-leg by a delivery of extra bounce - and Gowtham.

He consumed More with a delivery that straightened and ended Gowtham’s stay - he was blazing away with sixes - with a change in length. 

Intensity is not in short supply in this face-off.

At Dindigul: Karnataka 336 all out (Devdutt Padikkal 78, Pavan Deshpande 65; R Ashwin 4-79) versus Tamil Nadu 165/4 (Abhinav Mukund 47, Baba Aparajith 37; K Gowtham 3-61). Tamil Nadu trail by 171 runs.

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