Despite Karnataka stand-in captain Karun Nair playing it down on the eve of the day, Sunil Joshi’s presence as coach and Amit Verma being the key batsman always meant that the eight-time Ranji champion had to be weary of the former Karnataka duo going into its Ranji Trophy Group B tie at the Mumbai Cricket Association’s Bandra-Kurla Complex facility.
Despite S. Arvind’s heroics with the ball, Karnataka had to face Verma’s wrath. The left-hander’s undefeated century, coupled with an unbroken 102-run association for the seventh wicket with all-rounder Sarupam Purkayastha meant Assam ended the opening day at a respectable 268 for six.
Had it not been for Verma’s rescue act, Assam would have continued to flounder with the bat, as it had this season coming into the game. Verma, one of the stars of Karnataka’s triumphant 2013-14 campaign, obviously had the luck going his way on multiple counts. First, Abhimanyu Mithun, the Karnataka workhorse, limped off the field after damaging his groin after bowling just 10 balls into the game. And then, substitute Arjun Hoysala gave him a reprieve off Stuart Binny at backward point early on. If Verma, batting on two then, would have perished, Assam would have been reduced to 18 for four and the tail would have been left with too much on its platter.
It was not to be. And the left-hander then made Karnataka pay dearly. He showed patience in plenty as he respected the Karnataka bowlers, who continued to bowl in the right areas for a better part of the day. He started Assam’s recovery with a 76-run partnership with TN import K.B. Arun Karthick. Minutes before lunch, Karthick shouldered one from Arvind that moved slightly in and saw his off-stump being uprooted.
Tarjinder Singh also perished soon after lunch, edging Binny to ’keeper C.M. Gautam. An when Arvind in his fourth spell forced a nick off Syed Mohammad’s willow to Gautam and completed his five-for, Verma was in danger of running out of partners.
However, Purkayastha joined him and played the cleanest innings of the innings. The right-hander middled virtually every ball he played, impressing with his drives. The only flawed stroke he played came at the fag end of the day when a miscued pull off Binny was floored by offie K. Gowtham.
That dropped chance stamped the session for the Assam batsmen. The morning session, however, belonged to Arvind, who more than made up for Mithun’s absence. In a spell that read 6-1-17-3, Arvind fetched three edges off the top three Assam batsmen and Robin Uthappa and R. Samarth didn’t falter in the slip cordon.
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