On a day when the momentum kept shifting from one team to the other, it was Delhi who ended it on a high note, managing to gain a 74-run lead with 9 wickets intact in their second innings.
At one stage, when Deepak Chahar and Dishant Yagnik put on a 87-run seventh-wicket stand after a mini collapse, Rajasthan would have dreamt of a lot more than the 102-run lead they secured in the first innings. But Delhi hit back in time gain ascendancy in the match.
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With the sun beating down, and sucking up the moisture, the pitch turned slower as Gautam Gambhir and Unmukt Chand showed more patience and better shot selection to add 166 runs and drag Delhi towards a position of strength. Rajasthan were let down by the inconsistent lines from their bowlers. Especially Chahar in particular.
With the ball hardly deviating in air or off the track, his full-length deliveries became easy fodder for the batsmen.
Aniket Choudhary, who was so disciplined with his just-outside-off-stump line in the first innings, too wasn’t as effective and the pair of Manjeet Singh and Nathu Singh, the hit-the-deck bowlers, couldn’t extract much bounce from this track. It didn’t stop them from trying to bounce the batsmen but were pulled away for boundaries by both Gambhir and Chand.
It was Chand who first started to get a move on. He thrashed Chaudhary for four boundaries in the 25th over before driving Nathu for a couple on the off-side boundaries. Eventually, though, Nathu, the quickest of the lot, did get his man. He pinged Chand’s thigh with a short-of-length delivery and couple of balls later, he managed to get the ball to climb at Chand’s face. Chand was caught in two minds, whether to leave it or try steer it over slips, and before he could make a decision one way or the other, the ball had kissed his bat and settled into the gloves of wicketkeeper Dishant Yagnik.
Gambhir continued to bat close to his body, and showed intent till the last ball of the day. At the end of day’s play, which was extended by an hour in order to complete the overs, Delhi had showed how a touch of caution and slightly better shot selection can help snatch the momentum and deflate the opponents. Dominating another two sessions on Saturday will be the key for Delhi to put up a big total and go for an outright victory. And if Gambhir continues playing the way he did on Friday, Delhi could easily get past 300 within two sessions. It will be interesting to see how Gambhir mentors the nightwatchman Pradeep Sangwan in the morning session of the third day.
With the Sawai Man Singh track showing signs of wear and tear and the ball keeping low on certain occasions, Delhi certainly hold the edge. However, if the first two days’ play are anything to go by, the momentum can shift any moment. Match on.
Brief scores: Delhi 138 & 176/1 in 53 overs (Gautam Gambhir 77 batting, Unmukt Chand 84) vs Rajasthan 240 in 75.4 overs (Deepak Chahar 50, Puneet Yadav 46, Dishant Yagnik 40; Sumit Narwal 3/47, Parvinder Awana 2/24).2