Gautam Gambhir proved that he had a sense of timing on Saturday. The selectors are set to pick the Test squad for the Test and ODI series in South Africa on Monday and the Delhi skipper made his case stronger for a call-up as the third opener by making 153 in 215 balls. He also showed the will to bat for long periods and not throw away a start as he was at the crease for six minutes short of five hours.
Gambhir has the ability to rein in his natural instincts and fight from trenches when the match situations demands it. At Napier in early 2009,he batted for over 10 hours to make 137 in a drawn game. The conditions were not as challenging as it was at the McLean Park but the wicket at the Roshanara grounds wasnt one on which a batsman could hit on the up or have complete disregard for footwork.
At times,Gambhir didnt hit the ball where he exactly wanted it to go but nevertheless it didnt seem that he was not in control of his innings against the Haryana bowlers,who were fighting a losing battle after the team had conceded a first innings lead.
Gambhirs century only made it harder for Haryana to get back into this game. Towards the end of the day,once Delhi had declared,left-arm spinner Varun Sood picked up three wickets to leave the visitors reeling at five for 63 in their second innings,still 313 runs behind.
Batting overnight on 26,Gambhir displayed solid defense as the bowlers,fresh in the morning,were sharp. The sun was out so Gambhir knew that it was only a question of seeing off the first half an hour before he could exercise greater command over the proceedings. Soon,instead of the firm pushes he was now executing full-fledged drives. Although half of his first dozen fours were through the slip cordon,the fact that he could keep them from flying to the catchers showed that he was making late adjustments.
After Unmukt Chand and Virender Sehwag were dismissed cheaply again,Gambhir took the responsibility to hold the innings together. The duo of Gambhir and Manhas took Delhis total over the hundred-run mark.
Gambhir hit seamers Ashish Hooda and Harshal Patel through the off-side. Manhas innings was cut short after he pulled a muscle and retired hurt on 36.
When Gambhir was driving off the front foot he looked his best. The front foot was in the line with ball and his follow through was clean and powerful. Once the bowlers stopped getting assistance off the wicket,Gambhir began to stand just outside the crease in an attempt to disturb their length.
When they bowled at him fuller,he played through the cover,when they strayed he flicked on the leg side. Medium-pacer Joginder Sharma came closest to getting Gambhirs wicket when the Delhi skipper edged two boundaries when nearing his eighties.
However,Gambhir shortly stepped out to Sharma and hit him straight down the track. From the other end,Patel feared similar treatment and dropped the ball short and but was hammered through the mid-wicket area. Off-spinner Jayant Yadav too failed to keep Gambhir in check. Gambhir twice danced down the track to Yadav,and played him the inside-out over the cover region for fours.
Eventually he completed his century in 175 balls with a boundary through third-man. His next fifty was a quickfire show in just 34 balls. But his was a soft dismissal as he misjudged Yadavs length and scooped back to him. Rajat Bhatia made a fifty in 51 balls. Parwinder Awana too played a breezy knock of 24 in 15 balls before Gambhir signaled the declaration on 312 just before tea.
Brief Scores: Delhi 201 & 312/5 dec (Gautam Gambhir 153,Rajat Bhatia 56 n.o; A Hooda 2/38 ) vs Haryana 138 & 63/5 (Varun Sood 3/3).