At the end of the day’s play at the IS Bindra Stadium, Ishant Sharma called out the team-mates for a football match. Skipper Gautam Gambhir and coach KP Bhaskar too joined them. Gambhir patiently stood near the chairs marking the half and copped some close-range shots. It was the same approach—ridden with patience and tenacity—that saw the 35-year-old scoring his 39th first-class century. He also surpassed 14,000 runs in first-class cricket .
Right from the start—when he crisply drove Basant Mohanty through covers—his teammates would’ve sensed a big knock from the skipper, who was furnished an international lease in the last Test against New Zealand. The conditions weren’t ideal to bat in the morning. Vice-captain Unmukt Chand would vouch for it, as he perished attempting a pull. But Gambhir was more worldly-wise. He consumed 32 dots in the first hour, scoring only off loose balls, which he did meticulously. He stroked five boundaries in that span. Then flicking Biplab Samantaray, he brought up his half-century. Maybe, the regular fall of wickets at the other end shackled him—Dhruv Shorey and Nitish Rana too didn’t show any application or patience. Meanwhile, Suryakant Pradhan was purchasing some movement off the surface. But Rishab Pant’s arrival gave him more freedom, and together they were involved in a momentum-shifting partnership.
Pant, who scored his maiden triple hundred recently against Maharashtra, treated Orissa spinners with disdain. He smacked successive boundaries off Govind Poddar before meting out the same treatment to Samantaray. Like Pant, Gambhir too became more authoritative, carving out seven boundaries in that session. He was especially ruthless on off-spinner Poddar, whom be dabbed through point to complete his century, the first of this domestic season. He must have felt more relief than joy as he had twice fumbled in the 90s in the Duleep Trophy.
However, Pant’s impetuousness got the better off him, as he floundered when trying to hit left-arm spinner Dhiraj Singh for a second six in the same over. Maybe that unsettled Gambhir as well. Soon after Tea, three overs to be precise, he fell trying an extravagant shot off Poddar. But Milind Kumar and Sumit Narwal chanced their bat around in the last hour to extend the cushion to 114 runs.
Brief Scores: Odisha 237 vs Delhi 351/7 (G Gambhir 147, R Pant 60, D Singh 3/61).
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