Gautam Gambhir is on the cusp of making his last innings a memorable one. He was unbeaten on 92 off 154 balls at stumps on Day 2 of the Ranji Trophy encounter between Delhi and Andhra Pradesh at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday. Andhra were bowled out for 390, the stage was set on Friday noon for the southpaw as he arrived into the middle to a guard of honour. In a throwback to the yesteryears, Gambhir got off to a brisk start cracking a couple of crisp boundaries off the first two deliveries he faced.
The 37-year-old showed no signs of nerves and raced to 25 in 17 balls courtesy of two more fours. Along with Hiten Dalal (58 off 77), Gambhir provided a solid start to Delhi as the duo added 108 runs for the opening wicket. However, lady luck played a huge part in Gambhir’s last act as Andhra’s fielders dropped more than a couple of chances, including one stumping opportunity.
Unfazed by the rare moments of distraction Gambhir continued to trudge along and raised his 50 off 67 balls as his wife Natasha and daughters Aazeen and Anaiza cheered from the boundary ropes. Capturing his last innings on canvas was a professional artist, Faiz Ahmed, who sketched Gambhir’s trademark stance on the 22 yards. After reaching his fifty off 67 balls, Gambhir dropped the anchor and barring one half-chance there were no hiccups.
While Gambhir’s strike rate was 59.74, what it did not reveal was the determination he showed to battle it out in the middle. On several occasions, he was beaten by the pacers while spinners Manish Golamaru and Karn Sharma tried hard to spin a web around him. But using all his experience Gambhir would just dab one into the vacant space and relieve the pressure. While singles drew a loud cheer, stifled appeals faced resounding jeers and boos.
However, the drama did not end there as one among the excited crowd breached security to run onto the field for a selfie. But by the time security personnel could catch up on the intruder, Gambhir, who rarely smiles on the field, obliged much to the delight of the fan. For the few hundred who turned up to watch their hometown hero, it was a happy outing as Gambhir remained not out at the close of play, eight shy of a landmark hundred. Giving him company at the crease is skipper Dhruv Shorey on 39. Delhi are 190/1
With regular captain Nitish Rana and the talented Himmat Singh away on national duty, Gambhir’s experience proved valuable for Delhi who cannot afford a bad outing after suffering a defeat to Punjab in the previous encounter. The Delhi vs Andhra Ranji Trophy game will be the last time Gambhir dons a cricket jersey as a professional.