Seventy-six for two in the 19th over of their chase, Baroda were decently placed. They needed another 133 from 32 overs, and with eight wickets in hand, had the situation under control. Opener Aditya Waghmode, after surviving Ishant Sharma’s testing spell with the new ball, was looking somewhat at ease facing Pradeep Sangwan and Subodh Bhati.
While Bhati constantly attacked the stumps, Sangwan, it seemed, was bowling to a plan — the short-ball plan. The left-arm pacer kept banging them around the half-way mark and got a decent purchase off the strip. He did concede a couple of boundaries, but his strategy paid off for Delhi, even if it wasn’t Sangwan who got the wicket.
Waghmode was facing Bhati. The debutant bowler landed it short but the ball didn’t rise like Sangwan’s from the other end. Expecting a similar behaviour, Waghmode stayed rooted, and the ball rapped him plumb in front. It was a crucial moment, for Baroda were on road to recovery. The wicket spurred Bhati on. The seamer, though not express by any stretch, was very consistent. He kept attacking the same spots and used subtle variations to fox the batsman.
Six overs later, Bhati scalped the dangerman Yusuf Pathan with an effort worth all the praise. Pathan muscled a slower-one straight but the youngster got down in time to take a very sharp return catch. Pathan was on 2, and a player like him could have shifted momentum in a low-scoring affair.
After Pathan went, Deepak Hooda, having scored a fifty, followed. From 76/2, Baroda were reduced to 109/6. Hardik Pandya and the tail did keep the visitors interested in the modest chase but Bhati returned to pick up two more wickets, taking his match figures to an impressive 4/17.
The Feroz Shah Kotla strip was keeping both bowlers and batsmen interested. It wore a moist look for most of the day. The odd one was keeping low.
It wasn’t just Baroda who were tested on this, as they say here, phasa hua Delhi wicket. Put in to bat first, the hosts got off to a breezy start but their star opener Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir couldn’t make it count. At 73/4, Delhi were in trouble.
With no support from the other end, Nitish Rana, who is in his debut season, played an innings of character. The left-hander was cautious in his approach but didn’t miss out on any scoring opportunities. Anything short and wide was fiercely cut, and his use of feet against the spinners lit up the gloomy winter morning.
Rana put on crucial 76 runs with Pawan Negi before hitting one straight to Yusuf Pathan in the deep. The stand helped Delhi post 208/7 in their fifty overs. A total which turned out to be enough on Thursday.
Unmukt behind the stumps
In absence of Rishabh Pant — who is away on India U-19 duty — and failures of his replacements, Unmukt Chand may soon be seen wicket-keeping. Unmukt didn’t play the match against Baroda due to his final exam but will return to the side in place of Shikhar Dhawan, who has an ICC event and Rohit Sharma’s wedding to attend.
Brief scores: Delhi 208/7 (Rana 62, Negi 47*; Arothe 2/30) beat Baroda 177 (Hooda 50, Pandya 29; Bhati 4/17)