High on confidence after a tremendous run in the ongoing domestic season, Karnataka captain R Vinay Kumar has not put a foot wrong in the last couple of months. By the end of the first day of the Irani Cup tie, the medium-pacer was all smiles after completing a rich haul of six wickets to send Rest of India crashing to 201 at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium hereon Sunday.
But for Tamil Nadu veteran Dinesh Karthik's gritty knock of 91, and some lusty hits from Amit Mishra (47), and Harbhajan Singh (25), RoI would have been in real trouble.
Looking at the greenish wicket, Vinay knew winning the toss was vital. And he had no hesitation to bowl first. Trapping the promising Jiwanjot Singh in front off the very first ball, Vinay had RoI in all sorts of trouble. He followed that up with two more wickets in quick succession, both B Aparajith and Kedar Jadhav trapped plumb in front.
Gautam Gambhir was holding one end up. At 12/3, RoI's fortunes depended on Gambhir and Karthik. While Karthik looked to be in good touch, the same wasn't the case with Gambhir.
Stuart Binny, known to possess a golden arm, was quick to respond to his captain's call. The all-rounder trapped Gambhir (22) before dismissing Mandeep Singh, caught at slip by KL Rahul. At 62/5, RoI were down in the dumps.
Reaching his 50 off 143 balls, studded with seven boundaries, Karthik looked well set for a century. But there was trouble again as Mishra, who produced some lusty blows, fell to a smart catch by Karun Nair at second slip off HS Sharath.
RoI captain Harbhajan gave good support to Karthik and the duo put on 70 runs for the seventh wicket. But a brilliant catch by Robin Uthappa at mid-on brought an end to Karthik's brilliant effort (91, 184 balls, 14x4). It was Binny's third wicket.
In his next over, Vinay grabbed two more wickets for the day's honours.
In reply, Karnataka began disastrously, losing Uthappa to Ashoke Dinda, caught at slip by Jadhav. But the ever-reliable Rahul (28 batting) and Ganesh Satish (7 batting) ensured there were no further hiccups. Karnataka were 35 for 1 at close.
Elated with his performance, Kumar said, "We knew the wicket would offer lot of help for the fast bowlers early on. We were lucky to win the toss." Kumar was was all praise for Binny. "Stuart is talented and gives us a lot of strength in all departments."