Pradeep Sangwan and even Rahul Yadav, Delhi's wicketkeeper, signed autographs, and a boy fell at Gautam Gambhir's feet, but it was the chants of "Viru! Viru!" that reverberated around the DRIEMS College Ground at Tangi on Monday (February 16), where Delhi and Mumbai met for their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal clash.
Sehwag's role on the first day, though, was limited to chatting with Unmukt Chand in the slip cordon, carrying the helmet from one end of the pitch to the other and waving at his fans, as an incisive Delhi bowling attack dominated the day.
Each of Sumit Narwal, Parvinder Awana, Sangwan, Rajat Bhatia and Manan Sharma picked up at least a wicket to dismiss Mumbai for 156 in 81 overs. In reply, Delhi reached 20 for the loss of Chand, with Gambhir unbeaten on 5 at close of play.
It could be easy to believe that the disciplined Delhi bowlers were unplayable on a two-paced pitch, but it was actually the poor shot selection of the Mumbai batsmen that left them shortchanged. Except for Nikhil Patil, who showed extreme maturity in only his fourth game to remain unbeaten on 54, none of the other batsmen showed any desire to grind it out after being asked to bat first.
The new ball was changed after four overs and, immediately, Narwal, the day's most successful bowler with three scalps, angled one across Akhil Herwadkar, the left-hand opener, who edged it to Chand at second slip. Soon, Awana got Shreyas Iyer to push at a delivery on the off stump to Mithun Manhas at first slip.
Iyer, richer by Rs 2.6 crore having been bought, ironically, by Delhi Daredevils at the Indian Premier League auctions on Monday, looked for runs. However, after his exit in the tenth over, Aditya Tare and Abhishek Nayar, Mumbai's two most experienced batsmen, adopted the approach of blunting out Delhi's attack, a ploy that would backfire.
They scored 35 runs in 17.1 overs, allowing Delhi to control the game, and something had to give. Bhatia asked the wicketkeeper to come up to the stumps to keep Nayar inside the crease, and it broke the third-wicket partnership of 35 runs. Nayar played across the line to a ball that stopped a bit to be trapped in front of the wicket.
Bhatia's first spell of 7-5-2-1 stood for everything Delhi were trying to do on the field. They tested Mumbai's patience by sticking to one channel of attack around the off stump and the rewards kept coming.
Just after lunch, Narwal defeated Tare with bounce and Mumbai's captain edged it to be caught behind for 29 after playing 121 balls. It was a good delivery that deserved a wicket, but Suryakumar Yadav had no such excuses as he tried to flick one from Sangwan - who replaced Varun Sood, Delhi's lead bowler this season, for this game - to be adjudged lbw.
Siddhesh Lad, Mumbai's saviour most times he has come out to bat, did not produce any magic this time around as he too was guilty of a cross-batted shot off Manan. Having been told by the team's think-tank to stop the rut, Wilkin Mota played with a straight bat for 28 deliveries before being lured by Manan to sky an easy catch to Sangwan at mid-off.
Desperate to push things ahead, Shardul Thakur played one straight down to Narwal at mid-off and ran without looking at Patil at the other end. And, Rahul, who had a long discussion about his keeping technique with Vijay Dahiya, Delhi's coach, during the tea break, took a sharp low catch behind the stumps to send Harmeet Singh back for Sangwan's second wicket.
At 122 for 9, Patil had only a more-than-able Balwinder Singh Sandhu for company. The pair applied themselves for 14.2 overs in a manner that would have led to a few in the dressing room question their own style of play. First, Patil farmed strike and played his shots every time there was an opportunity, but slowly transferred some of his confidence on to Sandhu, who blocked the Delhi bowlers.
Patil stepped out to Manan for his second six on the legside to bring up his fifty and Mumbai's 150, but soon after that, an indecisive Sandhu gloved one to give Rahul his third catch.
But, by being involved in his team's second-highest partnership, Sandhu had proved that there was no demon in the pitch. He then capped off things with a wonderful bouncing delivery that took Chand's edge on its way to Tare's gloves in the last ball of the day.
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