Rajat Bhatia did for Delhi what K Vasudevadas had done for Tamil Nadu against Bengal in their last match. Actually Bhatia's one-man show on Wednesday, the second day of their Ranji Trophy Super league game, was even better.
Resuming on the overnight score of 252 for eight, Bhatia, riding his 11th first-class hundred, guided Delhi to 392 at the Eden Gardens, a total that was one run more than what Tamil Nadu scored against Bengal on way to a 10-wicket victory. Bengal are 84 for four in reply, Manoj Tiwary and skipper Sourav Ganguly at the crease.
Grit & application
Bhatia and his overnight partner Manoj Chouhan frustrated Bengal for the entire first session and when Chouhan was finally bowled by Veer Pratap Singh, 132 runs had been added for the ninth wicket.
Bengal had everything in their favour. They had the new ball. Chouhan had faced 17 balls on Tuesday and looked he could be out any time, typical of a No. 10 batsman. The morning session at Eden has the reputation of providing the most difficult of conditions to bat on and the wicket has a fair bit of grass on it. Even the most pessimistic official in the Bengal camp had given Delhi long odds of reaching close to 300.
What unfolded was enough to send skipper Ganguly quietly biting his nails on the mid-on fence. There were misfields, even by Tiwary. In short, Bengal looked somewhat resigned.
Throughout the morning session, Bengal bowlers, led by Ashok Dinda, pitched short. What it did was put the opponents' grit to test. What it did not was allow the ball to move and test the batsmen's technique. It was not that Bhatia had all the strike. Someone with the batting abilities of Chouhan played 99 balls in the first session alone.
To give credit to Bhatia and Chouhan, they played within themselves and did not try to get on top of the bowling. In time, the Bengal bowlers threw down the towel and allowed Delhi take control.
When someone asked national selector Surendra Bhave, how he saw Dinda — Bengal's highest and this Ranji Trophy's second-highest wicket-taker — bowl, he gave a wry smile and said "no comments".
That's the way
Those who tried to justify Bengal's toothless bowling in the morning by saying that the wicket had eased out were left eating their words late in the afternoon session when the hosts came out to bat. Suddenly the wicket seemed to do a lot. Actually, it was just the right length and line Delhi bowlers persisted with. Kuldeep Rawat had opener Arindam Das's off-stump cartwheeling as far as Punit Bisht behind the stumps. Das thought he had his off-stump covered and stood bewildered.
Shreevats Goswami, looking edgy every time the ball left him a little late, was run out for not honouring his partner's call. Writam Porel was trapped in front playing across and then, surprising everyone Ganguly sent in a nightwatchman. With Delhi bowlers on top, Sami Ahmed lasted just two balls. Ganguly had to come in anyway. Just that Bengal had lost an extra wicket.