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Delhi fight on

cricket Updated: Sep 16, 2008 23:29 IST
Arjun Sen
Arjun Sen
Hindustan Times
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Normal service resumed. Delhi's batsmen showed just why they are considered one of the strongest line-ups in domestic cricket, while the greenhorns from Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd. (SNGPL) were made to sweat.

If Monday was all about Sui fast bowlers making the Delhi bats look like novices, on Tuesday, the home batsmen showed who was boss. Despite conceding 123 runs in picking up the last four Sui wickets on Day Two - Sui ended their first innings on 266 - and trailing by 132, Delhi, powered by an unbroken stand of 196 between Aakash Chopra (93*) and Virat Kohli (91*), ended on an imposing 242/1, their lead already a healthy 110.

It was a tough day for the bowlers. While Delhi's bowlers had to work hard to see the back of a resolute and competent Sui lower order, their counterparts were dispatched relentlessly by Chopra and Kohli.

The day started with a lot of promise for Sui. Khurram Shehzad and Imran Khalid, the overnight batsmen, started the day with a lot of determination, biding their time in the middle, playing themselves in on a track that had displayed quite a few demons the previous day.

Delhi made the first breakthrough of the day when Ishant Sharma had Khalid (15) slashing to Chopra at second slip.

Shehzad, joined by Monday's hero Imran Ali, continued to keep the scoreboard ticking. The two scored at a healthy rate, seldom failing to send the bad balls to the fence. In fact their scoring rate was so brisk that 107 came in the first session itself. The 77-run stand was finally broken when Ali fell to Rajat Bhatia for 36. Sui's innings was wrapped up when Pradeep Sangwan cleaned up Asad Ali for 8.

With enough time to first wipe off the 132-run deficit and then set a healthy target, Delhi's openers could have played a patient game.

But that was not quite what Virender Sehwag had in mind. The right-hander single-handedly decimated Ali in first 36 minutes of the innings, sending the first-innings hero crashing after Monday's high. Sehwag, it seemed, had only one thing on his mind when he came out to bat on Tuesday - hit the ball hard and long. And that is exactly what he did, scoring a blitzkrieg 37 off only 29 balls, with 6 fours and a six.

He took a special affinity to Ali, plundering 15 runs off his sixth over. The bowler, however, had his retribution in his very next over when Sehwag fell for the trap laid for him.

Sui skipper Mohammad Hafeez put two men out for the hook, asked Ali to bowl it short, and Sehwag obliged - holing out to Asad Ali at fine leg.

While Sehwag did not last long, Chopra and Kohli did. They played with method and maturity. The 196-run stand between the two knocked the stuffing out of the Sui bowlers, their shoulders drooping and their spirits flagging.

The two always seem to have an innate understanding between each other while batting, something which was palpable on Tuesday. They batted with elegance, ran with telepathic understanding and built their innings in almost identical fashion.

With the runs not showing any signs of drying up, slow left-armer Khalid decided to bowl from over the wicket, into the pads, trying to utilise whatever little rough there was. But Kohli and Chopra found a way round this, playing inside-out shots, making room to find the cover boundary with ease.

With both batsmen looking in ominous touch, the next couple of days could bring with them a lot of misery for Sui. Delhi seemed to have upper hand, but then again it was a different story just 24 hours ago.