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There is nothing striking about Bhuvneshwar's build or pace, which is distinctly medium. He is wiry and not muscular, nor is he exceptionally tall. He does not scowl at batsmen and has an innocuous action. Yet, most batsmen won't be comfortable facing him because he has the ability to swing the ball both ways. The in-swinger comes naturally to him but he developed an out-swinger early in his career, now in its fifth year. Bhuvneshwar is only 21, but has 42 first-class games under his belt. He is a useful all-rounder but is considered to have the potential to blossom into a match-winner with the ball. His five-wicket haul against Karnataka on Sunday could be bracketed into the second category.
On Saturday, Bhuvneshwar had made 36 off 73 at No.9 to help extend Uttar Pradesh's score to 283, a first innings that was propped up by Mohammad Kaif's excellent 122. It was with the new-ball that he excelled on Sunday. His first spell of 9-4-15-2 was decisive in helping Uttar Pradesh take a first innings lead of 102.
The absence of both Praveen (out with an elbow injury) and RP Singh (knee injury) this season put the onus on Bhuvneshwar to make early strikes. Among his medium-pace partners was debutant Ankit Singh Rajput. The early signs were omnious once Bhuvneshwar was given the new ball.
An out-swinger squared up Karnataka opener KB Pawan and No.3 Ganesh Satish — both were caught behind. When medium pacer Imtiaz Ahmed trapped Robin Uthappa in front, it left the visitors reeling at 28 for three.
The recovery was scripted by Manish Pandey and Amit Verma; their 93-run partnership off 140 balls advancing past the lunch break. And though Pandey and Verma grew in confidence, they found it hard to deal with Bhuvneshwar's mix of in-swing and out-swing and were rapped on the pads often. Both batsmen scored half-centuries but fell shortly — Pandey edging Rajput to the 'keeper and Verma paying the price for defending away from the pad and seeing the ball roll back onto the stumps to give leg-spinner Piyush Chawla his only success. The Stuart Binny-CM Gautam partnership was broken by the caught and bowled chance taken by Ahmed to dismiss the latter. Bhuvneshwar ensured that the tail-enders didn't ruin the good work early on and cleaned up the lower order with another neat spell in which he claimed three wickets.
Uttar Pradesh didn't have the best of starts in the second innings and were 55 for three, with Suresh Raina back in the hut. Nevertheless, the home side has secured an overall lead of 157 on a wicket which continues to keep the medium-pacers in the game.
At stumps, Bhuvneshwar, promoted up the order, and Kaif remained unbeaten. These two players have played big roles in giving the hosts the upperhand in this match. Bhuvneshwar's exploits with the ball showed how good Kaif's first innings century was in the light of Karnataka's struggle in countering the moving ball. With two days to go in this game, Uttar Pradesh, after securing the first innings lead, will now look to go for the outright win, which will leave Bhuvneshwar to do a little bit more in the match.
Brief Scores: Uttar Pradesh 283 and 55/3 in 22 overs (M Kaif 18 batting; R More 1/12) vs Karnataka 181 in 54.4 overs (M Pandey 54, A Verma 52; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 5/35, I Ahmed 3/53)