Ranji Trophy: Karnataka rides high on Siddharth's comeback trail

K. V. Siddharth proved he could deliver under pressure after his first-innings fifty against Jammu and Kashmir helped Karnataka recover from a precarious situation.

K. V. Siddharth Karnataka

Karnataka's K. V. Siddharth drives in the V during his knock of 98 against Jammu and Kashmir.   -  R. V. Moorthy

K.V. Siddharth had virtually ensured Karnataka's spot in the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy but nobody would have guessed it from his reaction on Monday. He spent an age leaning over his bat in despair when he was dismissed, for 98. Then, as a couple of Jammu & Kashmir fielders offered words of consolation, he trudged off so slowly that new man K. Gowtham had almost taken guard before he could cross the rope.

Siddharth might at least have allowed himself a smile. The 27-year-old produced two innings of undeniable quality at the Gandhi Science Memorial College to help seal Karnataka's passage into the last four. He first walked in late on day one, with Karnataka 14 for two during a pointless half-hour of play in the gloom. He then spent an entire, frustrating day indoors as a wet outfield washed out day two.

Then on day three, J & K's bowlers came out attacking, leaving Karnataka battling for survival. In that context, Siddharth's first-innings 76, from a team total of 206, was invaluable. It was a remarkably patient, technically sound knock. The next-best individual score was 37.

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"Siddharth's innings was very crucial because we needed a score of at least 200-plus," said Karnataka coach Yere Goud. "We knew he was going to contribute in difficult situations."

Then on day four, after Karnataka had secured a slender lead, Siddharth helped himself to another half-century, effectively batting J & K out of the contest in R. Samarth's company. As the semifinal looms and the Karnataka team management scratches its collective head over how it will accommodate K.L. Rahul in the XI, one name is not in doubt.

Things looked a little different a month ago. Siddharth had come back from a long layoff, not having played a game of cricket since injuring his shoulder in September, and was struggling for form. His first three innings post-return had yielded scores of 0, 19 and 4. He had some credit in the bank, having finished the 2018-19 season as Karnataka's top run-scorer; but that runs out at some point. His 62 against Madhya Pradesh in Shivamogga signaled a return to form. In Jammu, he proved his worth to the side again.

"Really commendable effort," said Karnataka captain Karun Nair. "He was out injured for a long time. He has come back and continued the form he had last year. He’s converting starts into bigger scores. It’s now about getting those big hundreds. I’m sure he can get them in the coming games if he bats as well as he is."

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