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Yearend Ranji sale: Dozen wickets for 89 runs

Simarjeet Singh and Ishant Sharma roll out Hyderabad for 69 in the first innings, visitors lose two more after following on.

Ishant Sharma was the crowdpuller and he recirprocated their affection with a lower-order mopping. (PTI)

When medium-pacer Simarjeet Singh was scything through Hyderabad’s top-and middle order on a chilly Kotla afternoon, those crowding the Mohinder Amarnath Stand grew increasingly restless. “Arre ek over Ishant bhai ko do,” they collectively screamed. They’d packed the lunchboxes and tea-flasks to Kotla to watch one of the Delhi’s finest run a weak batting line-up ragged.

In the morning session, after Delhi settled for 284 in the first innings, everything conspired for an Ishant master-class—gloomy clouds, helpful surface and a line-up with eight left-handers. However, in an anti-climax, after his stifling but the wicketless first spell that read 6-2-6-0, Ishant was pulled out of the attack. That didn’t end Hyderabad’s troubles as the rest of the Delhi pace bowlers stepped up. At stumps the visitors, following on after shrinking to 69 all out, were 20/2 in the second innings.

It’s wasn’t that he bowled well, but his Test blueprint didn’t work here. He was too good for the Hyderabad batsmen. Ishant would hit back-of-length, on the fourth-fifth stump channel, angle the ball inwardly and make it nibble away from the left-handers. They would chance their luck and leave the ball, or cover the line and defend when it was stump-bound. Skating on thin ice.

They had no intentions whatsoever to play their strokes—they crawled at less than half a run per over in the first 10 overs. But for what it was worth, the second-wicket pair of skipper Tanmay Agarwal and PS Chaitanya Reddy saw out Ishant after left-armer Pawan Suyal had bowled Akshath Reddy in the first over.

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shikhar dhawan, shikhar dhawan delhi, shikjhar dhawan ranji trophy, ranji trophy scores, ranji scores, indian cricket scores, indian cricket, cricket today Shikhar Dhawan scored his 25th first-class hundred, his first in 18 months, against Hyderabad at the Feroze Shah Kotla. His unbeaten 137 cornerstoned Delhi’s 269/6 at stumps on Day One. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

Against such a defensive strategy, Delhi needed more straightforward, stump-to-stump bowling to bargain the wickets, more so as the odd ball kept low. Simarjeet, brisk and wiry, provided just that. With a full, straight first ball, he trapped the scratchy Agarwal in front, who played down the wrong line. Six overs later, an identical delivery nailed Himalay Agarwal, ending his tormented 32-ball stay.

Bookended by the straight-ball dismissals was the exit of Chaitanya Reddy, losing his patience and slashing wildly at a wide Suyal delivery. Then at the stroke of lunch, Simarjeet burst through Kolla Sumanth’s feeble defences with extra pace. From 5/38, it was imperceivable to see Hyderbad forge a comeback.

Their lone hope of avoiding follow-on rested on Bavanka Sandeep, arguably their most promising batsmen and considered the inheritor of a uniquely proud batting legacy. But a careless stroke—trying to cut an awkwardly bouncing Simarjeet short-ball—ensured his departure. Thus, Simarjeet, supposedly the stock bowler, turned out to be the strike bowler. By default, he emphasises: “My job was to support Ishant bhaiya by bowling tight lines. Initially, he was beating the batsmen but they took fewer risks against him. Perhaps, they thought they can attack me more and I got those wickets.”

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Then as the mild sun dispersed and the gust of breeze got stronger, Ishant blew the lower-order with a four-wicket spell, delighting the crowd, who crooned: “Ishant miya, kal ke liye kuch bacha ke rakhna!” Hyderadad, thus, stumbled to their second successive double-digit score—Punjab had shot them out for 76 in the second innings. They could be a third too, as they look equally shaky in the second innings, having already lost two wickets for 20 runs before the fading light forced an early wrap-up of the second day. In all, they lost 12 wickets in 39 overs, which’s a session and nine overs. Their plight could have been worse had Delhi clung into all their catches.

Such abject capitulations cease to surprise, for Hyderabad has been a side on a steep slide for much of the decade. Their treasured legacy of insouciant batsmanship, of twinkling foot-work, silken wrists and artful flicks, emblazoned by the likes of ML Jaisimha, Mohammad Azharuddin and VVS Laxman, has died a slow death.

Storied collapses

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From the 21 in Jaipur in 2010—still the lowest Ranji total—to the 69 here, Hyderabad has plunged to the depth several times in the last decade. The shortage of quality batsmen is mirrored by their receding contribution to the national side.

For much of the last three decades, there was at least one indispensable Hyderabadi in the national side. But not since Laxman retired had had they a Hyderabadi of that stature. In fact, the last Hyderabadi to represent India was the medium-pacer Mohammed Siraj, but unconvincing to burst through the ranks.

What they’re left with—as evidenced in Kotla–is a crop of batsmen with staggering ineptitude, lacking in technique and tactics, composure and courage, fight and fortitude. They showed neither oldfashioned dourness nor new-age enterprise. Though the Kotla pitch was, by no stretch of imagination, a placid batting surface, it wasn’t unplayable either.

Forget the runs Shikhar Dhawan made. After all, he’s a Test batsman, accustomed to such challenges, but even rookies like Anuj Rawat and Kanwar Bhiduri demonstrated that making runs is not impossible if they had a method. Each batsman stared suspiciously at the strip when they were dismissed, as though it was wickedly misbehaving. It was seldom the case, though.

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There are obvious talks of talent. Bavanaka Sandeep is one—he’s a delightful strokeplayer, averages 47, has a double hundred to his name (against Services). Debutant Chaitanya Reddy is deemed a wonderful talent. The Agarwals, Himalay and Tanmay, and Akshath Reddy all average over 40, but at the slightest sniff of a challenge they shirked. Twice in two innings.

In so grim a situation as this, the exiled Ambati Rayudu’s name pops up. The middle-order batsmen had come out of retirement and joined the team before the season, only to opt out claiming “too much politics”. Mohammad Azharuddhin, who took charge as the president a few months ago and promised quick turnaround, brushed it aside as the rant of a “frustrated man”.

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But, as they stare at a third crushing defeat, Rayudu is being badly missed. Instead, they’re left with a group of inadequate batmen, who were ruthlessly exposed not just by Ishant, but by the straight balls of a shy rookie in his fifth match. That Hyderabad didn’t need Ishant to be at his deceptive best tells the day’s story.

Brief Scores: Delhi 1st Innings 284 (Shikhar Dhawan 140, M Ravi Kiran 4/60, Mehedy Hassan 3/61). Hyderabad 1st Innings 69 in 29 overs (Ishant Sharma 4/19, Simarjeet Singh 4/23, Simrajeet Singh 2/25) and 20/2 (Kunwar Bidhuri 2/7).

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First published on: 27-12-2019 at 04:50:47 am
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