THE FLOODLIGHTS were fully lit and the crowd of over 5,000, who had descended upon the grass banks to witness the fourth day’s play of the Duleep Trophy final between India Red and India Blue here at the Greater Noida Stadium, were getting boisterous. A soggy outfield caused by a heavy downpour in the morning had washed out close to two sessions.
Play had to be aborted barely 30 minutes after it finally resumed at 7pm. The reason: A deep crevice was formed at the City Park End of the ground, where huge chunks of grass had come out from the bowler’s run-up area because of dampness. As the groundstaff were busy at work trying to fill the dent with sand, all the players had left the field, except India Red’s captain Yuvraj Singh and Shikhar Dhawan, who were involved in an animated conversation at the far end of the ground. At this stage, Gautam Gambhir’s India Blue were comfortably ahead with a cushion of 370 runs.
The soggy outfield and patches in the bowler’s run-up area had turned the penultimate day into a dull, listless affair. For the second time in three games, the ground’s below par drainage system had halted proceedings. After a 75-minute disruption, the dent was fixed, and play finally resumed.
Gambhir and Mayank brought up their 5th consecutive 50-run opening stand of the series. India Blue’s have prospered due to their robust stands at the top of the order. Tonight, their captain was the prolific of the two. In the first over after resumption, Gambhir square drove Nathu Singh, and then followed it up with a pull shot to get his innings underway. Despite a string of consistent scores this series, (he had four fifties in as many innings so far), he did not find a place in India’s Test squad for the upcoming series against New Zealand at home. He took to Twitter to vent his frustrations.
“I’m disappointed but not defeated; I’m cornered but not a coward. Grit my partner, courage my pride…for, I must fight, I must fight,” he tweeted.
The 34-year-old was in sight of his 5th half-century, but he was ultimately done in by Kuldeep Yadav’s flipper, which trapped him plumb in front. Gambhir was dismissed for 36. However, in the quest for some quick runs, Mayank opened up following his captain’s demise.
He brought up his 11th first-class fifty with a boundary, but added only two more before holing out in the deep to Nathu Singh. Dinesh Karthik too came and perished, and Rohit Sharma’s six off Kuldeep being the highlight of the final session.
Kuldeep Yadav bowled with better control and got prodigious turn from the fourth day track. He finished with figures of 2/47 in fourteen overs. Only 33 overs were possible in the start-stop day. At the end of proceedings, Blue were ahead by 476 runs, with Gambhir still showing no intentions of announcing a declaration any time soon.