If you had asked Akhil Herwadkar then, he is sure to have insisted on having put his front-foot on the right spot. Probably, he might say so even now. It was the last ball of the day after all. And he was keen to be doubly sure about the positioning of his foot as he faced up to the canny Shreyas Gopal.
But to his dismay and temporary shock, the young Mumbai opener was to realize he had misread the length, not to forget the trajectory of the ball. It was a googly, so it also meant the ball was turning in the other direction to which Herwadkar had comprehended.
So utterly deceived was the left-hander, that Gopal immediately assumed to have gotten the better of his opponent, for good. Just like KL Rahul, as he came running in from short mid-wicket, all set to celebrate the first dismissal of the Mumbai second innings.
The ball, however, had missed not only Herwadkar’s bat, it had also spun narrowly past his off-stump. Herwadkar had survived. So had Mumbai. But only for now.
The visitors had finished Day Two on 61/0 — 17 more than they managed for the loss of nine wickets in their first dig — still needing 384 runs to post an improbable victory. More realistically, Karnataka remained nine wickets — Abhishek Nayar unlikely to bat after being advised a two-week rest — shy of booking their berth for a second consecutive Ranji Trophy final. And Herwadkar and Mumbai can expect many more hiccups and scares as they try to overcome their batting debacle in the first innings before even setting their sights on the towering target in front of them. And somehow survive them all.
Mithun hurts Mumbai
In many ways, Mumbai hadn’t done themselves any favours earlier in the day by allowing the hosts to get away in their second innings. The pitch at the Chinnaswamy Stadium wasn’t bereft of tricks for the second day running. And Karnataka had started the day at a precarious position of 10/2. Plus, they had a night-watchman at the crease in Abhimanyu Mithun. As it turned out, it was Mithun who hurt Mumbai the most. At times owing to his aggressive approach, but not without assistance from the errant performance by Shardul Thakur & Co. in the first session on Thursday. To his credit, Mithun was fearless.
He jumped out of his crease repeatedly to both Harmeet Singh and the Mumbai seamers alike, slamming Balwinder Singh Sandhu for a couple of boundaries in the process. At the other end, Ravikumar Samarth looked intent on making up for being run-out in the first innings by settling in for the long haul. And he did just that by making 58.
Mithun, meanwhile, was batting in fifth gear. Overall, he smashed 14 fours and looked well set to bring up a maiden first-class ton. Unfortunately he fell 11 runs short, bowled by Thakur for 89. Yet again, it was the tireless Mumbai pacer who impressed with the ball, eventually finishing with four victims to go with the four he had snared on Wednesday. But by the time he got Mithun, the lanky pacer had added 149 for the third wicket with Samarth. He had also in more ways than one dashed Mumbai’s hopes of forging a dramatic comeback on the second morning.
Samarth was dismissed less than two overs later, bringing the dangerous pair of Manish Pandey and Karun Nair to the crease. The stage was set for the dynamic duo to take the game away from Mumbai. But they could do so only for a brief period, adding 61 in the process. Then Nair fell flashing at a wide delivery from Sandhu. Kunal Kapoor fell in the same fashion not long after. Then came the Pandey run-out. All of a sudden, it was Karnataka who were losing their way, if only briefly. Before long they were bowled out for 286, losing their last five wickets for just 64 runs. But by then they had amassed a lead of 445 runs, setting Mumbai a steeply target. One that Mumbai have set about chasing with confidence and conviction with skipper Aditya Tare having raced to 40 with eight boundaries. But they will need Tare, Herwadkar and the rest to put their best foot forward, even if they don’t quite judge the line or trajectory to perfection.
Brief scores: Karnataka 202 and 286 all out (Abhimanyu Mithun 89, Ravikumar Samarth 58, Manish Pandey 42; Shardul Thakur 4/69, Balwinder Singh Sandhu 3/45, Harmeet Singh 2/109) vs Mumbai 44 and 61 for no loss.