Batting with a pronounced open chested stance, India Blue captain Gautam Gambhir looked extremely ungainly at the crease. The change in the technique seemed to have been propagated to counter the fast and fullish incoming deliveries, which have made him a candidate for lbw dismissals in the past. This could also have come about after his sessions in Perth with former Australia opener Justin Langer, whom Gambhir had visited at the end of the 2014-15 Ranji season. Whatever the reason, the 34-year-old was not complaining though. Riding on luck, the opener raised his half century, and was involved in an unbeaten 105-run stand with fellow opener Mayank Agarwal before torrential showers stopped play on Day 1 of the second Day/Night Duleep Trophy encounter between India Blue and India Red here in Greater Noida.
“I don’t mind batting first. The first session is always going to crucial. Hopefully, we can get a good start. Playing under lights is going to be a completely different experience, and I am sure the guys here are going to relish it,” captain Gambhir had said after losing the toss and being asked to take first strike.
His comments summed up his state of mind ahead of his pink ball debut. Like in the numerous Ranji Trophy games he had played for Delhi, Gambhir was willing to grind it out in the beginning, intent on playing high intensity and attritional cricket. His innings lacked flair, but he was effective nevertheless. In just his second over, India Red’s tearaway rookie targeted Gambhir with the full delivery outside off stump. However, he ended up erring in line, offering ample room for the left-hander to crunch it through covers. Again, because of the open stance, Gambhir did not look picture perfect. His feet had hardly reached the pitch of the ball, but had managed to make the optimum connection.
Two overs later, Nathu tested Gambhir with a testing short delivery. The batsman mistimed the hook, and edged it to deep fine leg, where Gambhir’s Delhi team-mate Pradeep Sangwan spilled it. Gambhir trudged on.
His opening partner at the other end — Mayank Agarwal — struggled in the beginning. Sangwan had the Karnataka opener’s measure for at least the first 30 minutes of play. Trying to make amends for his dropped catch, Sangwan tried his best to make early inroads. Like Nathu, he too worked up some pace and beat Mayank with some vicious away-going deliveries. Mayank dug deep and survived. Once he was set, he opened up, driving Sangwan on the up through the covers twice. The duo took the score past the 50-run mark at the end of the 17th over. With India Red’s pacers unable to dislodge Gambhir and Mayank, Yuvraj brought his star chinaman bowler — Kuldeep Yadav. However, the Uttar Pradesh bowler, looked ineffective, as he failed to extract the kind of dip and grip he was getting from the surface in the first game. If anything, he was guilty of bowling too short, enabling India Blue’s openers to keep the scoreboard ticking along comfortably.
Yuvraj brought back Nathu Singh before the tea break. He continued to bowl fast, but found absolutely no assistance from the track in Greater Noida, which by then looked ideal for batting. Two overs before the interval, Nathu banged one short off a length, drawing Mayank to play a flick shot a little too early. The opener got a leading edge, which was snapped up by Nathu, only to realise that he had overstepped. Against the run of play, this was one scalp Yuvraj and his team would have wanted to help them get some momentum back in the proceedings, especially after winning the toss and opting to field.
Despite his six-wicket burst in the last game, Nathu was guilty of bowling 11 no-balls. This seemed to be a recurrent feature in his bowling even today. Red got another chance when Gambhir survived a run out chance. At tea break, the openers had taken India Blue to 81. It was not an exciting first session, but a highly attritional one. Gambhir and Mayank held fort, survived a few close calls, but had managed to put their team in a position of ascendancy.
Post tea break, both openers reached their half centuries in emphatic fashion. Mayank bludgeoned Yadav past long on to reach the landmark, while captain Gambhir slapped two consecutive boundaries off Sangwan to reach his fifty, and in the process also took his team past the 100-run mark. By the 34th over, the pink ball had gone out of shape, prompting the umpires to go for a change. The new ball had lasted only three balls, when heavy rains ended play for good on Day 1.
Torrential rains ends play
Heavy rains accompanied by strong winds had stopped play at 5.30pm on Day 1. And with the rains showing no signs of stopping, play was officially called off barely half an hour later. By then, almost the entire outfield was under covers, and huge puddles of water were formed.
Brief scores: India Blue 105 for zero in 34.2 overs (Gautam Gambhir batting 51 off 105 balls, Mayank Agarwal batting 53 off 102 balls). India Red won the toss and chose to field.