The heads were dropping and the shoulders drooping. The piece de resistance from the Hyderabad tail was making life as difficult as ever for Delhi and the excruciatingly slow rate of scoring wasn’t helping matters. Delhi skipper Aakash Chopra must be wondering why, within a season, bowlers who ripped the heart out of much stronger teams, are suddenly looking a little better than pedestrian. Ashish Nehra managed all of three overs in the day before hobbling off to the dressing room, and his partners were as ineffective as ever in their efforts to bring an early close to the innings.
Led by another workmanlike effort from overnight centurion Anoop Pai (130), the hosts made Delhi toil for 45 overs under the not so pleasant sun to add another 87 runs to their total. Delhi finally managed to end their misery and the Hyderabad innings a little less than an hour after lunch. The hosts ended their first innings at 334.
However, while the Hyderabad batsmen did occupy the crease for long periods of time, they showed no intention to score quickly. The Delhi bowlers went unpunished for their waywardness, with the bad balls finding the fielders instead of the fence.
334 on a placid wicket like the one here was not expected to stretch the star-studded Delhi batting in its efforts of gaining what should be a decisive first innings lead. And that looked like the case when Chopra and Shikhar Dhawan started the Delhi reply with a flurry of boundaries. The two have a tacit understanding, they know each other's strengths and weaknesses, and back each other to the hilt.
Riding on the back of yet another 50-run partnership between Chopra (51) and Dhawan (47), Delhi found themselves en route to a strong position at tea. Scoring at almost 5 an over, a far cry from the 2.46 Hyderabad got their runs at, the tourists took tea at 57/0.
The balls being used in the Ranji Trophy have come for a lot of flak, both from players and coaches. Their propensity to lose shape after a couple of hits to the fence has led to frequent changes. And it was a similar change that got Hyderabad right back on track.
It took Ashwin Yadav only five deliveries with a changed ball to find Dhawan’s outside edge. Chopra, now joined by Mayank Tehlan, continued with his innings and was looking good for a big one, when offie Ahmed Quadri had him caught at slip by Ravi Teja.
Delhi had lost two big wickets for 28 runs, and the job at hand was to see out the day without any further losses. But, it was not be. Mayank Tehlan was bowled off what proved to be the last ball of the day to put Delhi deeper in the mire. They ended the day on 124/3.
The shoulders were drooping all over again.