After his dazzling knock of 79 on debut, Delhi opener Hiten Dalal was asked how he countered Himachal Pradesh’s spin bowlers. “There was no plan as such. I am an attacking player and Gautam bhai told me to just play my natural game,” he said. Dalal could afford to smile at the end of the first day’s play, but Delhi’s inherent lack of plan against the opposition’s slower bowlers played a vital role in the home team’s collapse from 162/2 to 317 all out.
On Day 2, most would have expected Vikram Rathour’s team to have learnt their lessons after watching Delhi’s travails against spin bowling. But Himachal Pradesh’s top-order just crumbled against the twin assault from Delhi’s left-arm spin duo — Vikas Mishra and Varun Sood. They accounted for six scalps between them to leave them gasping at 58/6 and staring down a possible follow-on. A fire-fighting fifty by allrounder Rishi Dhawan, and some meaty contributions from the lower-order, helped Himachal Pradesh progress to 216/8 at stumps.
Early on Tuesday, play was stopped for close to 75 minutes due to a heavy spell of rainfall. The visitors then were off to a rather inauspicious start after Ishant Sharma rattled the stumps of their opener Priyanshu Khanduri. Following the setback, Himachal looked like they had got the measure of the bowling, with Ankush Bains stroking Ishant for three boundaries. That was when Nitish Rana brought the spinners on. All of the sudden, the complexion of the game changed. A bevy of close-in fielders were brought in, and the batsmen just went into their shell. This defensive mindset brought about their downfall. Between overs 16-23, Himachal Pradesh lost five wickets for just 9 runs. Delhi’s bowling was not extraordinary, but they were precise.
The second-half of the day’s play belonged to Dhawan. The veteran all-rounder, along with young Ekant Sen, who is playing in this third first-class game, gave their team the reason to hope with a rearguard 95-run stand for the seventh wicket. What worked in their favour were their positivity in stroke-play and the confidence in using their feet to the spinners. Dhawan came down the track on several occasions, and even went on one knee to put Delhi’s rampant spin twins off guard. Sen was dismissed four runs short of the half-century mark, while Dhawan soon followed him for 64, done in by poor umpiring.
Brief Scores: Delhi 317 (D Shorey 88, H Dalal 79, M Dagar 3/63) HP 216/8 (Rishi Dhawan 64, Ekant Sen 46, Varun Sood 4/53).