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Advantage Baroda as Delhi falter

Siddhartha Sharma

Posted: Nov 20, 2012 at 0243 hrs IST

New Delhi: Asked to bowl the first over of Delhi’s innings, Baroda fast bowler Murtuja Vahora took no time in demanding for a deep square-leg. A deep fine leg, a short mid-wicket and a mid-on were already in place. Without too many fielders in the cordon, only a first time batsman would have failed to have sensed that he was in for some short-pitched stuff. And Delhi’s Shikhar Dhawan is no first-timer.

Yet, Dhawan decided to play the bowlers game. And he was rather successful at it.

As expected, Vahora bent his back from ball one. From the other, Gagandeep Singh Natt did the same. But all the bumpers and snorters didn’t stop Dhawan from going for his pulls and hooks and executing them to perfection.

Baroda, on the other hand, weren’t too perturbed by the swashbuckling opener’s approach. Dhawan, after all, was dancing to the visitors tunes. But in the scheme of things, it was the only way out for Delhi — the only way they could get anywhere near Baroda’s first innings score of 561.

With Ambati Rayudu’s men having been dismissed in the seventh session of this dozen-session match, Delhi had little time left if they were to claim three points in this game. So while Dhawan’s approach could have been considered suicidal, it sure wasn’t foolish. For even after he perished playing one such pull off Vahora for just 30, he had laid the foundation for Delhi’s score at stumps — 215/3.

In just a day, Tuesday, Delhi will have to score a shade under 350 runs. And it is not going to be easy, considering how Baroda were on the ball with their strategies on the penultimate day of the game.

Soon after Dhawan was dismissed, the focus shifted to the other opener, Unmukt Chand — a shaky starter who needs his time to settle down. With Rayudu keeping the deep square leg fielder just there, Chand nearly fell into this trap early —skying a Vahora bouncer just short of the fielder’s hands. While he received an earful from coach Vijay Dahiya for the stroke, Chand still has a habit of playing uppish strokes, a tendency that nearly had him caught and bowled by Vahora while batting on seven. He carried on to make 51 — thanks to Rayudu’s out of the box thinking of removing the covers fielder and hoping that Chand plays his drives on the up.

Rayudu, however, constantly sensed an opportunity with Chand. A tad too late, he did two things right. He brought in a short cover to cut out his drives and delivered the ball to Bhargav Bhatt. But once he did, the left-arm spinner dismissed Chand early with his stock delivery — castling him with a ball that pitched on middle and hitting the top of off stump.

While the openers had their say, Mohit Sharma, the number three batsman, was the highlight of Delhi’s innings so far. A picture of concentration and patience, Mohit top scored for the home side at the Ferozeshah Kotla with 71, involving himself in two big partnerships during his near four hour stay at the crease. With Chand he was part of an 87 run stand and with Mithun Manhas, unbeaten on 41, Mohit stitched 78 runs.

But like most Delhi batsmen, Mohit couldn’t help himself from playing the odd flashy shot — in his case an on-drive that cost him much. Expansive turned expensive as a clueless Baroda, one that had no idea how to dismiss this southpaw for 154 balls, got lucky.

With Manhas and Rajat Bhatia still at the crease, Baroda cannot afford to take it easy just yet. And if Baroda coach Sanath Kumar is to be believed, then the hardest part of the match is still left for the visitors — separating them. “Mithun and Rajat are Delhi’s best pair. Even though we know we have the advantage but we will have to get Manhas and Bhatia out early. They are experienced players and possess the capability to go after any score,” Sanath said.

Everything, hence, depends on who out-thinks the other on Tuesday.

Brief scores: Baroda 561 all out in 178 overs (A Chauhan 113, A Rayudu 131, K Panchal 80, G Natt 76; P Awana 4/104, R Bhatia 3/35, S Narwal 2/84) vs Delhi 215/3 in 69 overs (M Sharma 71, U Chand 51, M Minhas batting 41; B Bhatt 1/30)

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