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By piling on runs, UP declare intention — safety first

Nihal Koshie

Posted: Nov 20, 2012 at 0244 hrs IST

Meerut: The last four overs before the lunch break was an antipode of the periods of play that preceeded and followed. Uttar Pradesh’s Parvinder Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar smashed 41 off just 24 balls. The message being sent out to the Karnataka camp or so it seemed was that Uttar Pradesh, with six wickets in hand, were going to accelerate and turn the final screw by tea. At lunch they led by 278 runs and were going at 4.7. Another 30 overs were bowled between lunch and tea but Parvinder and Bhuvneshwar brought the overall scoring rate down to a snail’s pace of 2.9 runs per over. Yet a 361-run lead was in the bag and Uttar Pradesh had a session and a day in which to try and bowl out Karnataka.

But the declaration never came and by stumps the hosts led by 445. With three points in the bag after Bhuvneshwar’s five-wicket haul helped them secure a first innings lead on Sunday, Uttar Pradesh adopted a safety-first approach by batting out the opposition from the game instead of grabbing an opportunity to bag six points, awarded to a team that achieves an outright win in a Ranji Trophy game.

The declaration will now have to be made on Tuesday morning if the hosts habour any plans of forcing a result but the Karnataka batsmen, without a tempting target, will only attempt to do what Parvinder and Bhuvneshwar did on Monday, which is grinding down the bowlers.

Bowling concerns

Uttar Pradesh coach Venkatesh Prasad admitted that the aim of delaying the declaration was done with the intention of batting out the opposition. “Ideally we would have looked to declare with an overall lead of around 350 but our bowling attack is not at full strength and we have only two experienced bowlers in Bhuvneshwar and Piyush Chawla. We also don’t want to underestimate Karnataka because they made over 300 runs on the final day against Tamil Nadu. We decided to adopt a safe approach and bat Karnataka out of this game because the wicket had eased today. We will push for a result on the final day,” Prasad said.

Karnataka’s batsmen arrived in Meerut with a reputation after making 329 on the final day of their previous game to overhaul Tamil Nadu’s first innings total of 538. A similar effort by a pair of Karnataka batsmen on a fourth day wicket would have threatened any competitive target.

However, giving weightage to the above factor would expose the lack of faith in the bowling resources -- minus an injured Praveen Kumar -- led by the young Bhuvneshwar which skittled out Karnataka for less than 200 in the first innings.

Moreover, the 230-run stand between Parvinder and Bhuvneshwar had at various stages given Uttar Pradesh an opportunity to declare. Though wear and tear and resulted in uneven bounce on occasions, the two looked untroubled during their 467-ball stand. Parvinder completed his eighth First-Class century and remained unbeaten on 143, while Bhuvneshwar was dismissed on 91. Their partnership steadied the innings after Mohammad Kaif, a centurion on the first day, was bowled by Stuart Binny for 35.

Yet as the post-tea session began, the partnership started to become labourious as it became clear that its purpose now was to only consume time and realising that the Karnataka bowlers adopted a negative line.

If Uttar Pradesh eventually declare, then they will have to set attacking fields, while their bowlers must strike early. And if they run out of time to bowl out Karnataka, it will be a farcical ending to the match.

Brief scores: Uttar Pradesh 283 and 343 for 5 in 112 overs (Parvinder Singh 143 batting, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 91; Krishnappa Gowtham 2/49) vs Karnataka 1st innings 181

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