It’s the 20th over of the day and Delhi’s left-arm seamer Pradeep Sangwan gets Virender Sehwag to drive straight to mid-on. The ball is well timed and it speeds across the turf. Sehwag calls for a single, and Sachin Rana, his partner at the non-striker’s end obliges. At first glance, it looks like touch-and-go, but the Haryana captain makes a quick dash and completes the run.
On most occasions, he would not have taken the risk. Sehwag, after all, is not known to be a brisk runner between the wickets. But today, it was different. Delhi’s son of the soil was batting on 49 against the team he had represented for close to two decades at the domestic circuit. The single brings up the veteran’s half-century. The Kotla crowd goes into frenzy. Sehwag, though just raises his arms to acknowledge the loud cheers. He knew the job was half done. Beginning Day 3 with just 26 runs ahead of Delhi, and having lost Himanshu Rana in the opening hour, the onus was on the 37-year-old to get a big score. Sadly for Haryana and the Kotla crowd, Sehwag once again flatters to deceive.
In the next over, he slashes a Manan Sharma delivery straight into the hands of Gautam Gambhir stationed at first slip. Silence descends upon the Feroz Shah Kotla. The crowd wanted more from the showman. He however, showed fleeting glimpses of what he was really capable of. He struck six glorious boundaries in the morning session. The stand-out shot was his trade-mark punch through the off-side off the bowling of Pradeep Sangwan. When Sehwag departed, Haryana were 4/120, leading by a mere 78 runs.
Haryana’s inexperienced middle-order needed to steady the ship. Sachin Rana and Rahul Dagar began playing positively. The two rotated the strike and kept the scoreboard moving. In between Rana launched into Manan, cracking him for two towering sixes over long-on. The two added 60 runs in another 20 overs to take Haryana to a position of ascendancy at lunch. However, Delhi came back strongly, getting rid of both Rana and Dagar in the space of two overs. All of a sudden, Haryana were tottering at 186 for 6 — leading by 144 runs. Haryana’s lower-order, much like Delhi’s chipped in with crucial cameos to help them take a sizable lead. The visitors added 79 runs for their last four wickets to set Delhi a target of 224. For Delhi, their hero was left-arm spinner Manan Sharma. He ended with figures of 6/105 in 40.4 overs, and total match figures of 11/162.
Manan is no magician with the ball. He keeps things simple and bowls on a tight leash, honing in on the batsmen’s middle-stump. On a placid track, which offered little assistance for spinners, this ploy brought him ample rewards. Meanwhile, Delhi’s fielding, especially their catching was abysmal. As many as four catches were dropped by the home side in the little over two sessions they were on the field today.
With over an hour’s play remaining, Delhi’s chase looked tricky. With a fragile middle-order, Delhi were banking on their openers to get them off to a good start. Unmukt Chand started off emphatically. He creamed Harshal Patel through the covers to begin Delhi’s chase. Two balls later, he flicked Patel between mid-wicket and long-on for another boundary. Barring the run-out in the first innings against Vidarbha, Chand has prospered in this season so far, and his positivity and energy seems to have rubbed off on his captain as well. Gambhir, like his deputy, began with a couple of boundaries against Jayant Yadav. The two never looked in trouble against Haryana’s bowlers. By the end of the day’s play, Delhi had seized the initiative. They motored along to 69 without any loss in just 17 overs, with Chand having scored 48 in just 46 balls.
Brief Scores: Delhi 237 and 69/ 0 (Chand 48*) need another 155 runs to beat Haryana 195 and 265 (Sehwag 51, Rana 46, Manan 6-105).
Hamstring worry for Ishant
Much of the crowd that had descended on Kotla today were keenly anticipating how the second essay of the Virender Sehwag and Ishant Sharma duel would shape up. They were disappointed as the Delhi speedster did not take the field in the morning session. The 27-year-old pulled his hamstring, his team-mate Pradeep Sangwan later said.
“Our physio has asked him to take three-four days rest. This is why he missed today’s play and was also absent from the warm-ups in the morning,” Sangwan said.
The gravity of Ishant’s injury will be known after an MRI scan. This means Ishant will take no further part in this game and will also miss Delhi’s next Ranji tie against Bengal. Meanwhile, the national selectors will meet on Monday to select the team for the last two ODIs and the first two Tests against South Africa. While, Ishant has been out of favour in ODIs for some time now, he will not be eligible for selection in the first Test against South-Africa because of a one-Test match ban slapped on him by the ICC.