It was touted as the clash of epic proportions. On one hand you have a swashbuckling batsman who is at the dusk of his career, while on the other, there is this fast bowler who is in his prime. The intrigue and romance to this duel is magnified when you know the two have been team-mates – both at Ranji and at the international level.
The sparse and motley bunch who had gathered in the morning on Day One here were to be disappointed, though. The first essay of the expected high-voltage clash turned out to be a tepid affair. However, in this short duel, which lasted only two deliveries, it was the tall Delhi fast bowler who won the honours in the first round.
Delhi, fielding three fast bowlers, had no hesitation in putting Haryana into bat after winning the toss. Ishant opened from the Pavilion End, and hit his straps immediately. Continuing from where he had left off in the previous game against Vidarbha, the 27-year-old accounted for Rahul Dewan in the fourth ball of his fourth over. The ball was sharp and moved just a bit, which was enough to get the outside edge of the Haryana opener. The visitors were 1/20.
The fall of Dewan led to loud cheers from the sparse crowd at the Kotla. The reason was obvious. Virender Sehwag strode into his home as an away player. Walking in to bat, the swagger, confidence and poise remained intact. Much like what it was nearly two decades ago when he first made his debut for Delhi at this very ground.
Chants of ‘Viru, Viru’ resounded. At 37, Sehwag may not have made an international appearance in close to three years. However, judging by the loud cheers, his popularity has far from waned. As the former Indian opener took strike, chants reached the crescendo. The epic clash between Sehwag and Ishant would now finally bear fruition. Ishant, in the middle of the a dream spell, would not give his opposition any leeway. With two balls remaining in his fourth over, he began by bowling a sharp delivery, one that reared up and thud on to Sehwag’s gloves. Cramped for room, the Najafgarh native managed to fend it off quite comfortably. The next delivery was slightly wide outside the off-stump, which Sehwag left alone. That was that — the end to the day’s highly anticipated duel.
Resting Ishant after five overs, Gambhir brought on left-arm seamer Pradeep Sangwan. Sehwag took a liking to the left-armer, cutting him for two boundaries behind point and gully to get into his groove. In between, he negotiated Parwinder Awana’s testing line outside the off-stump. The Najafgarhi found an able ally in Chaitanya Bishnoi. While Bishnoi was less prolific, he was dogged in his approach. The two added 31 runs and looked like taking Haryana to safety in the opening session.
However, a lapse in concentration did Bishnoi in, trapped in front to left arm spinner Manan Sharma’s straighter delivery. Bishnoi’s dismissal brought in Himanshu Rana. Fresh from his ton against Maharashtra in their previous encounter, the two were expected to bail the visitors out of trouble. But Rana was once again done in by Manan’s turn. Like, Bishnoi, he too was out LBW.
Sensing that Delhi’s left-arm spinner was seizing early advantage, Sehwag decided to break the shackles. He did it in his inimitable style. In the 25th over, Sehwag sashayed down and smacked Manan for a huge six over long-on. The six galvanised the subdued crowd for a bit. The six also signalled Sehwag’s intent. He would not allow the spinner to dictate terms. Gambhir knew that as long as Sehwag was around, things would be difficult for the hosts. Luckily, they got their prized catch in the same over.
In the last ball of Sharma’s over, Sehwag struck it straight to Ishant stationed at mid-on, and called for a single. The lanky speedster, while on the run, hit bulls eye. Sehwag, unfortunately, was inches short.
Brief scores: Haryana 195 in 78.1 overs (V Sehwag 37; M Sharma 5/57, I Sharma 2/29) vs Delhi 22/0 in 9 overs.