If only he had been less injury prone, if only his body could hold up a little more, Ashish Nehra could have been an entirely different story.
The left-arm pacer is a sheer treat to watch when in rhythm, and he was close to his destructive best on Tuesday.
Nehra uprooted Punjab opener Sunny Sohal’s stumps on the very first ball of the match, and followed it up with a hattrick to lay the foundation of Delhi’s seven-wicket victory over Punjab. The batsmen were all at sea when facing Nehra, helplessly watching the ball either thudding on to their pads or sailing into the gloves of the ‘keeper.
Nehra buried Punjab in a deep hole with his hattrick, picking up in-form Ravi Inder Singh, skipper Pankaj Dharmani and Ankur Kakkar in his fourth over. But before he could inflict further damage, he pulled up with a side strain and couldn’t take the field again.
At 21 for 4, Punjab desperately required someone to rise to the occasion. They found their man in Uday Kaul, who stood firm to score a patient century to help Punjab reach a modest total of 202.
Though it wasn’t aggressive, Kaul’s innings was still impressive given the conditions and circumstances. The left-hander first survived Nehra’s fury, and then the recklessness of his partners to give his bowlers something to bowl at.
The modest total wasn’t going to test Delhi, and it didn’t, thanks to an entertaining unbeaten century (119) from Virat Kohli. Punjab, though, began well when S. Kaul accounted for Shikhar Dhawan (4) and Aakash Chopra (10).
But it didn’t take long for Delhi to get on the track to victory as Kohli took control of the situation with some audacious strokes.
Soon Delhi were in cruise mode. Kohli, joined by Rajat Bhatia (53) at the fall of Mithun, didn’t allow the mediocre Punjab attack to pose any further trouble, whacking them to all corners. Bhatia, too, looked in good touch and played some superb on-drives in his unbeaten knock.
Kohli, who struck 14 boundaries and three sixes, cut loose towards the end to see Delhi home with a bonus point.