Delhi seemed to be holding the edge at the end of the first hour on the final day’s play against Rajasthan. After all, they had already got a wicket on Saturday evening, and proceeded to take two more in the opening hour, but Rajasthan was in a mood to prove that cricket is an unpredictable game. Vineet Saxena and Puneet Yadav turned the game on its head by batting out the remainder of the day, powering Rajasthan to vital three points, thanks to the first-innings lead.
The 150-run stand between Saxena and Yadav saw them surviving more than two sessions and their doggedness helped the unfancied hosts take a head start in this current edition of the Ranji Trophy.
“The plan was to stay on the wicket for long. After losing two wickets, we decided that we will go for a draw,” an elated Amit Asawa, Rajasthan’s coach said. “It would have given us three points. More than drawing the game, I am happy to see how this team is playing like a unit and wanted to do well,” Asawa said after the match was called off at the start of mandatory overs.
While chasing was completely out of question on the final day, Saxena and Yadav ensured Delhi had an extremely difficult day on the field. Had the result turned out to be on expected lines — a Delhi win — Sumit Narwal would have been in the spotlight, but the twist in the tale meant Deepak Chahar walked away with the honours. His five-wicket haul and a fifty run knock in the first innings made him an automatic choice for the Man-of-Match call.
Nagar reported for suspect action
Meanwhile, Delhi had another headache at the end of the final day. It is learnt that Yogesh Nagar was reported for suspect action. It’s the second time Nagar, an offspinner, was reported in his career. It was not his action but his foot that caused another problem for Delhi on the final day. Things could have taken a different shape had Puneet Yadav’s LBW decision at the stroke of lunch not been overturned by the TV umpire, who spotted that Yogesh Nagar’s delivery was a no ball. After the two early morning wickets, this was the only real scare for Rajasthan.
Although, the day’s play wasn’t exactly exciting, the best part of this partnership was the application the two batsmen showed.
The wicket offered no assistance or purchase to the seamers but occasionally kept low. A lapse in concentration could have proved tricky but Saxena, the senior pro, played the mentor’s role, constantly advising Yadav to cull out the fancy shots. In the first innings, Yadav had thrown away his wicket, putting his team in danger, and Saxena was obviously aware of it.
It’s a pair that understands each other and used to batting for long hours. Saxena-Yadav have had shared similar stands in the past, the most recent being in 2012 against Saurashtra, when they joined hands to stitch a crucial partnership. So the comfort factor was also one of the most important driving force in their innings. “It’s always a learning experience to be playing with Saxena bhai. His experience helps a lot and keeps you informed,” said Yadav.
To his credit, Yadav played a lot closer to the body and curbed his aggressive instincts. Similarly, Saxena was defensive, especially after they lost the third wicket. Importantly, though, he kept punishing the loose deliveries and didn’t allow the attack to settle down.
“It wasn’t easy wicket. The new ball moved around a little, but it was slightly easy with the older ball, just that we had to take care of the bounce,” Saxena said. Their run-rate of slightly over 2 runs an over is an evidence of the approach and their application.
With the Delhi seamers losing hope, skipper Gambhir too had no option but to look to the left-arm spinner Manan Sharma for help. He twice hit Yadav on the pads post lunch but the umpire wasn’t moved. Those were the only two moments, apart from the ‘wicket’ off the no ball that brought any hope to Delhi.
Amit Bhandari, Delhi’s assistant coach, praised Rajasthan batsmen for their application. “Credit to the Rajasthan batsmen for the way they took the game away from us. Our bowlers tried their best, but the fourth day wicket was just too slow for anything to happen.”
Brief Scores: Delhi 138 & 437/9 decl. Rajasthan 240 & (target 336) 186/3 (Vineet Saxena 80 not out, Puneet Yadav 75 no). match drawn. Points: Delhi 1; Rajasthan 3.