New Delhi: It was clinical, one can surely say about Mithun Manhas' unbeaten knock of 161 that steered Delhi to 331 and gave them a lead of 188 runs over Odisha on day two at the Feroz Shah Kotla here on Saturday.
After Delhi were bowled out, Odisha openers Paresh Patel (6) and Abhilash Mallick (1) came out for five overs and took their team to 7 for no loss before umpires called stumps due to fading light.
At the start of the day's play, Odisha's pacers came out with intent and ran in hard to get some quick wickets and exploit the morning conditions. Alok Mangaraj removed nightwatchman Manan Sharma (15) by digging in a short one and the close-in fielder latched onto it. Milind Kumar didn't last long as he was trapped in front of the stumps by Deepak Behera.
Odisha could have picked up one more wicket had Basant Mohanty not bowled a no-ball. Mohanty clean bowled Puneet Bist, who was trying to play across the line, but the umpire called for a review. Both the Delhi batsmen decided to stay put at the middle and Manhas in the 56th over of their innings hit a boundary over mid-on to give the home team lead.
At lunch, Delhi were 163 for 5 with Manhas batting on 69 and Bist 11. Just after the lunch break, Mohanty scalped Bist (11) and Odisha were nursing hopes of running down the tail, but left-hander Sumit Narwal had other plans. With his arrival the scoring rate picked up and Manhas started to play more freely.
The pair rotated the strike well with the odd boundaries coming in between and that was when Odisha lost grip off the match. Manhas took charge and raised the tempo of his innings to reach his century in style with a boundary, off 164 balls. At the other end Narwal played a brisk innings and before tea he also scored a half-century. At the second session break, Delhi were 288 for 6 and a lead of 145 with Manhas unbeaten on 132 and Narwal 59.
Odisha took the second new ball immediately after tea and reaped the benefit when Mangaraj bowled Narwal for 66. With seven wickets down at 302, Manhas decided to keep the strike to himself despite the Odisha skipper's effort of spreading the field to take the centurion off the strike.
Odisha managed to clean up the tail to leave Manhas stranded on 161 off 273 balls. Delhi were all out for 331 with a lead of 188.
It was Manhas’s 21st century in first-class cricket and at the end of the day he put it up there with his best. "Surely this is one of my best innings if the situation and condition are taken into consideration when I went out to bat," he said, while lauding Narwal. "Sumit played exceedingly well and took pressure off me, after that I was able to focus on my game and played more freely."
Mohanty returned with impressive figures of 4 for 81 and Mangaraj claimed 3 for 63. Deepak Behera's medium pace bagged him two wickets and Patel chipped in with one.
Whenever there is a match at the Kotla, the pitch has always been the focal point and this time was no different. Asked about how the pitch played, Manhas said: "This is a different and fresh pitch compared to the ones in the past where a batsman has to adjust with his shot making, particularly at this period of the year."
But he was quick to admit that at one stage batting was not easy with the ball doing a bit and the Odisha bowlers keeping things tight.
Manhas was not so critical on some youngsters like Milind Kumar and Mohit Sharma who failed to apply themselves when they had the right opportunity to do so. "They are still young and have time on their side to learn things, but the quicker they pick up things it's better for them,” he said.
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