Vinay Kumar's four wickets gave Karnataka the upper hand at tea on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final against Tamil Nadu. © Wisden India

Vinay Kumar's four wickets gave Karnataka the upper hand at tea on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final against Tamil Nadu. © Wisden India

Karnataka began the defence of their Ranji Trophy title on a perfect note after opting to make first use of a spicy Wankhede Stadium pitch in Mumbai, reducing Tamil Nadu to 100 for 7 in 57 overs by tea on the first day.

R Vinay Kumar, the captain, led the way, doing the most to justify his decision to bowl first, with figures of 4 for 18 in 13 overs that rocked the Tamil Nadu top order on Sunday (March 8).

At the break, Tamil Nadu had only one recognised batsman left, with B Indrajith holding fort on 23 not out – already the second-highest score of the innings, behind the 35 that Abhinav Mukund, the Tamil Nadu captain, made. Aswin Crist was giving Indrajith company, and had yet to open his account.

Abhinav had resisted manfully for almost three-and-a-half hours, but he misjudged the line a Vinay delivery would take, offering no shot only to see the bails clipped.

After losing four wickets in the morning session, Tamil Nadu came out post lunch intent on digging in, putting patience and caution above all else.

The scoreboard had slowed to a crawl, and a snorter from Abhimanyu Mithun late in the session accounted for Malolan Rangarajan, the seventh man out. With runs having slowed to trickle, there was always the danger of the unplayable ball making further dents in the wickets column, and Tamil Nadu went to tea having lost three wickets in the session.

Earlier, an incisive Vinay had made excellent use of the opportunity to bowl first, taking out M Vijay, B Aparajith and Vijay Shankar as Tamil Nadu went into lunch on a precarious 60 for 4 in 30 overs.

The day began with Manish Pandey shelling Abhinav at second slip off Mithun when the batsman was on 3, but Karnataka quickly established control. Vinay’s first strike could be the most important one of the innings yet, having trapped Vijay in front with an in-ducker to leave Tamil Nadu 13 for 1 in seven overs. Vijay was the best equipped batsman to negotiate the early movement and bounce, and with his wicket, Tamil Nadu were on the back foot.

Vinay struck again soon after, castling Aparajith with a beauty that came back in. Tamil Nadu will have felt hard done by when Dinesh Karthik, their best hope after Vijay’s fall, was adjudged caught behind off the returning HS Sharath, when the ball seemed to go off his chest.

That apart, the bowlers probed and troubled the batsmen constantly, and Karnataka’s decision to go with Sharath in place of an injured CM Gautam – strengthening the pace bowling with a four-seamer attack at the expense of the batting – seemed to be justified.