Uttar Pradesh came back strongly to keep their hopes alive in their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal tie against Karnataka at the Chinaswamy stadium in Bangalore on Friday. The match is now headed for an interesting finish as UP needs another 278 runs while Karnataka need to pick nine wickets to register an outright win.
Batting first, Karnataka were bowled out for 349 in the first innings, thanks to centuries from Robin Uthappa, Karun Nair and Chidambaram Gautam's centuries. In reply, UP declared their innings at 221 for nine and their bowlers came back strongly to skittle Karnataka for 204 in their second innings.
At stumps on Day Three, UP were 55 for one with Tanmay Srivastava and Ali Murtaza batting on 23 and 2, respectively. Instead of resuming on their overnight score, visiting captain RP Singh gambled to declare the first innings and dealt early blows to Karnataka, who were left tottering at 73 for five in their second essay.
UP did extremely well to pick the first innings centurions - Uthappa (0), Nair (25) and Gautam (36)- cheaply, which shattered Karnataka's attempt to set up a difficult target for visitors to chase.
Lokesh Rahul achieved the rare distinction of carrying his bat against a spirited UP bowling attack, especially leg-spinner Murtaza who claimed six wickets. Rahul stitched a crucial 63-run partnership and highest in Karnataka's second innings, along with Gautam for sixth wicket, bringing a sense of respectability to the hosts' score.
After Gautam's departure, the lower-order batsmen failed to give ample support to Rahul and the hosts lost last five wickets for the addition of 63 runs.
The star bowler for UP was Murtaza who scalped six wickets for 64 runs in 15.5 overs, which was his best performance in this season. He has claimed 19 wickets from five matches so far. Other wicket-takers were Ankit Rajpoot and Amit Mishra with two and one wicket respectively.
Chasing 333 runs, UP began their second innings on a strong note. Openers Srivastava and Mukul Dagar (23) took the team's total past fifty at a controlled pace, before the latter was removed by leg-break bowler Shreyas Gopal. Both were involved in 53-run stand for the first wicket off 92 balls.
As the match is evenly poised for an interesting finish, both teams would be in the race to wrest the initiative from each other. Karnataka will be looking to take early wickets by using early morning conditions while UP will look to resume their chase on a cautious note and go for the runs depending upon the situation.