Tottering at 174 for seven at one stage,an unbroken 105-run stand for the eighth wicket between wicketkeeper Arjun Gupta and Varun Sood helped Delhi recover to 279 for seven at stumps against Punjab on the penultimate day CK Nayudu Trophy final at Ferozeshah Kotla. Punjab still have the edge with Delhi trailing their first innings of 424 by 145 runs, but considering the home teams tail has made several vital contributions in their campaign this year,they will still count themselves in with a chance.
Despite how the match pans out however,Arjun Gupta contribution will be one positive for Delhi to take back. Walking into a pressure situation with the Punjab bowlers high on confidence,Delhis wicketkeeper calmly prepared to stem the rot. While his unbeaten innings of 69 began with stoic defence,it transformed towards the end of play into complete domination. Steadfastly batting alongside him on 41 was Varun Sood fresh from a century in his last match.
Gupta faced 131 deliveries and registered seven hits to the fence while his partner Sood hit six boundaries and a six in his 80-ball effort. When the two got together at the crease,they had to tackle the dangerous right arm seamer Baltej Singh who had caused all sorts of problems for the top order en route a five wicket haul. Indeed Singhs accurate line troubled Gupta initially. But Gupta stuck around and managed to keep rotating the strike. Steadily he grew in confidence and his feet started moving better against Punjabs pace bowlers. He played on the merit of the ball and did not try to complicate things. Although the final was just Guptas third match in the competition,he has acquired a reputation of being a handy contributor of crucial runs. I was a bit nervous at the start but was determined not to give away my wicket. I hope we can bat longer on Friday to see Delhi through, said an elated Gupta after play was called off due to bad light.
Earlier,with the fog playing spoilsport, play was prevented until lunch on the third day. Punjabs desperation to take the field paid off. Delhi had resumed on 133 for four,and Baltej Singh made it five down in the second over of the day,having skipper Milind Kumar caught behind for 51 with the total on 145. Baltej would account for Manan Sharma out for a duck in the same fashion en route figures of 5/73.
And when overnight batsman Rishit Saini fell to left arm spinner Gurinder Singh for 18,Delhi were staring down the barrel. That is until Sood and Gupta got together. There is still plenty of work to do. Which way the match will tilt on the final day,will depend on how the two manage to negotiate the morning session when the ball swings appreciably.
Brief scores: Punjab 1st innings 424; Delhi 1st innings 279/7 in 90 overs (A Gupta batting 69,M Kumar 51,V Sood batting 41,B Singh 5/73)