Delhi coach KP Bhaskar admits he was nervous going into the final hour’s play on Saturday evening. The target of 252 set by Uttar Pradesh was by no means beyond their reach. But the successive dismissals of Rishabh Pant and Manan Sharma pegged back the home side. With shadows lengthening at the Palam Ground, Bhaskar knew the game would not go beyond the stipulated 4.45 pm. At 4.30 pm, Delhi needed 21 runs to win, with four wickets in hand. But time was a premium for Bhaskar’s team.
The coach couldn’t help but think of his team’s predicament earlier in the season when they fell just 29 runs short of a win against Assam because of bad light.
“Yaar, there was a worry, to be honest. When Manan and Rishabh got out, thoughts of that Assam game did flood my mind. So, we sent Navdeep (Saini) ahead of Pulkit to get us a few big blows and finish the game off quickly for us,” he explains.
That move would work. That’s because the fast bowler would use the long handle to good effect, clubbing four scoring shots in the 12 deliveries he would face. Poor Ankit Rajpoot, the lanky Uttar Pradesh pacer, would bear the brunt.
An almighty heave was followed by an audacious club over the leg-side. He would seal the deal with a humongous six over long-on. Navdeep’s exploits helped Milind Kumar, as he was under no pressure to accelerate. Under the circumstances, his unbeaten 48 was worth its weight in gold.
In their pursuit of 252, Delhi did stutter in the end. Everyone in the middle order, except Gautam Gambhir, got off to solid starts. But no one really kicked on to play the sheet anchor’s role and see their team through. Opener Unmukt Chand, once again, only flattered to deceive.
Just when he looked like he was in for the long haul, he would get dismissed one run short of a half-century. Others like Dhruv Shorey, Nitish Rana and Rishabh Pant would sparkle, but their dismissals did put their dressing room under stress.
The four-wicket win gives Delhi 16 points from their three games and puts them in second spot behind Karnataka in the points table. “It’s a great win for us. We made heavy weather of it in the end, but a great win after conceding the first-innings lead,” a relaxed Bhaskar would sum up after the win.
Delhi, who will square up against Karnataka in the upcoming Ranji fixture, will be without the services of their captain Ishant Sharma, who will be away on international duty for the India-Sri Lanka series. Bhaskar said Pant would take over the reins in his absence.
For their next game, Delhi have dropped off-spinner Pulkit Narang, and have drafted in Lalit Yadav, a promising all-rounder from the U-23 squad.
“The selectors have dropped Pulkit for the next game and have roped in Lalit Yadav from the U-23 squad. I have not seen him bowl, but the selectors rate him highly. He is an all-rounder and will give us the depth in our batting,” Bhaskar added.
Brief Scores: Delhi 269 (Shorey 98 n.o., Gambhir 86) and 256/6 (Rana 67, Chand 49) beat UP 291 and 229 by four wickets.
Points: Delhi 6, Uttar Pradesh 0