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Ranji Trophy: Mumbai beat Delhi by 204 runs to reach semis

Ranji Trophy: Mumbai beat Delhi by 204 runs to reach semis

Mumbai scripted a massive 204-run win just before lunch on the final day, after having been bowled out for 156 on the first afternoon.

Rajat Bhatia is the poor man's Steve Waugh. A domestic stalwart, Bhatia has been Delhi's go-to player for many seasons now. He is a disciplined medium-pacer who lands the ball on the same spot day in and day out. With the bat, Bhatia is like a rock guarding the stumps.

Chasing 441 in their quarter-final clash against Mumbai at the DRIEMS College Ground in Tangi on Friday (February 20), Delhi were 110 for 4 overnight, and the realistic goal was to save the day and sneak through to the semi-finals on the basis of their 10-run first-innings lead. And, Bhatia, once again, held the key to his team's fortunes.

He fought valiantly for 122 balls before Harmeet Singh, the left-arm spinner, bowled him with an arm ball for 49, but by then the match had gone out of Delhi's reach as Manan Sharma, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Yadav failed to provide the kind of support Bhatia was hoping for.

After Bhatia became the eighth wicket to fall, Harmeet had Sumit Narwal caught and bowled, and Balwinder Singh Sandhu had Parvinder Awana caught at second slip to bowl Delhi out for 236. A tenacious Mumbai had scripted a massive 204-run win just before lunch on the final day, after having been bowled out for 156 on the first afternoon.

Fully abreast of the trials that lay ahead, Bhatia received a few throwdowns in the nets to warm-up, and resumed the job with Manan, his overnight partner, focussed on batting out time.

Delhi had started their chase positively on the fourth day, but losing two wickets in an over twice had plugged them back. Bhatia had also had got a life, having been dropped by Suryakumar Yadav at second slip on 24.

He was eager to get over that scar, but seven runs into the final morning, Shardul Thakur, the Man of the Match, bowling from round the wicket got Manan, the left-hand batsman, to commit a bit early to a drive off a slower ball that resulted in Siddhesh Lad accepting the simplest of catches in the covers.

That brought Sehwag, who batted at No.7 because of a viral fever, to the middle. The sixth-wicket pair was Delhi's best chance to save the game, and Sehwag would have known that more than the bowlers, his biggest challenge was conquering his mind.

Sehwag opened his account with a spanking cover drive to the fence off Thakur, and followed it up with a flick to the midwicket fence. Then, a wristy punch off Wilkin Mota to long-on brought him his third four and Balwinder Singh Sandhu was square cut to the point boundary.

The strokeplay enlivened the sparse turnout, even as Bhatia continued his job in an unfazed manner at the other end.

Sandhu lacked pace, but he mixed up his deliveries by releasing a few from the back of his wrist. And, with Aditya Tare, the wicketkeeper, standing close to the stumps, Sehwag's options were limited.

Sehwag tried to apply himself, but misjudged the line and bounce off an incoming Sandhu delivery and was bowled for 19.

With Delhi's lamp flickering, Bhatia pulled Harmeet for a six, but Rahul, dropped once by Suryakumar, pushed at Sandhu for Nikhil Patil to accept the edge at first slip.

Bhatia now had Narwal for company, and the duo blocked and left 16 deliveries before Bhatia's tenure ended.

The loss brought an end to what had been a superb season for Delhi till then. They had won five matches in the league stages - the joint-most along with Assam - and even if none of their bowlers were among the top ten wicket-takers, they fought collectively to pick up 156 wickets.

Unmukt Chand was the batting star, but in the big match, they needed their middle-order, not at its best this season, to come good. The twin failures in one game curtailed their progress, as Mumbai recorded their 11th outright win over their traditional rivals in 27 encounters. They also kept the bragging honours at neutral venues, the previous success having come on the basis of first-innings lead in the 1996-97 day and night final in Gwalior.

No one expected Mumbai to come so far after having just about made the quarterfinals, but by with a fearless brand of cricket, the young side has deservedly earned the right to be in Bangalore on February 26 for their semifinal encounter which will almost certainly be against Karnataka, the defending champions.

As he walked back towards the dressing room, Bhatia looked lost in his thoughts. Into his 15th year in the circuit and just one championship to show in 2007-08, when his unbeaten 139 had helped Delhi beat Uttar Pradesh after conceding the lead and broken a 16-year drought.

The poor man's Steve Waugh, though, has to wait a little longer for further glory.