Bangalore, Jan 8: For more than a month, Robin Uthappa was sidelined due to a hamstring injury. And the day he returned to cricket, he proved what he is capable of. The right-handed opener rescued Karnataka with a superb century on the first day of the five-day Ranji Trophy quarter-final against Uttar Pradesh here today.
Before today, Uthappa's last competitive game was on December 1, 2013, against Odisha in Cuttack. Since then, he was forced to be away from the game due to injury. Having put in a lot of hard work to get fit, he hit exactly 100 on Wednesday at his home ground - M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Thanks to Uthappa's knock and an equally impressive 100 (246 balls, 14x4, 1x6) from Karun Nair, Karnataka were 297/5 in 89.2 overs on the first day. Nair was out on the last ball of the day. Wicketkeeper-batsman CM Gautam was batting on 89 (101 balls, 14x4).
This was Nair's second successive ton. He had scored 105 in his last game against Delhi. Two century partnerships were the key for Karnataka today. Uthappa and Nair had a 120-run association for the fourth wicket while Nair was involved later with Gautam in 162-run association for fifth wicket.
Uttar Pradesh captain RP Singh had won the toss and sent the hosts to bat first on a greenish pitch. His decision was vindicated when Karnataka were reeling at 15/3. But Uthappa did not allow the visitors to further damage the score.
RP Singh bowled only 10.4 overs and was off the field early in the second session. He did not return due to a hamstring injury and is likely to miss the rest of the game.
The 28-year-old brought up his 14th first-class century off 156 balls. On way to the three-figure mark he hit 19 boundaries.
Uthappa had to be cautious at the beginning when the pacemen bowled very well. Having seen three wickets fall in quick time, Uthappa held the innings together and pulled the team out of trouble in the company of Nair.
Opener KL Rahul, one-drop R Samarth and Manish Pandey all returned to the pavilion without scoring. Pandey was out for a first-ball duck.
On 58, Uthappa was caught off a noball from RP Singh. Barring this minor hiccup, Uthappa was fluent in his strokeplay. He could have continued in same fashion but for a needless attempt for a big shot that sent him back on 100 (230 minutes, 160 balls, 19x4).
Uthappa stepped out to left-arm spinner Ali Murtaza only to miss the ball and wicketkeeper Eklavya Dwivedi did the rest to get him stumped. Uthappa was not happy with himself for having attempted shot and slowly trudged back with few hundreds of supporters applauding him.
For UP bowlers, barring the first one hour, the pitch had eased up to assist batsmen. Murtaza and paceman Amit Mishra took two wickets each while Ankit Rajpoot had one scalp.