Duleep Trophy: Gambhir, Agarwal 50s hand India Blue opening day honours | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Duleep Trophy: Gambhir, Agarwal 50s hand India Blue opening day honours

Put in to bat on a green track, Gambhir and Karnataka batsman Mayank Agarwal displayed assured footwork and clarity of intent as the duo brought up the first hundred-plus opening stand of the tournament.

cricket Updated: Aug 29, 2016 20:57 IST
Shantanu Srivastava
Gautam Gambhir celebrates his fifty as Mayank Agarwal watches.
Gautam Gambhir celebrates his fifty as Mayank Agarwal watches.(Virendra Singh Gosain/HT PHOTO)

On the eve of the second Duleep Trophy match, India Blue skipper Gautam Gambhir had played down the hype surrounding the pink ball and focused on the need to have the right mindset.

On Monday, the Delhi Ranji captain stuck to his words and displayed little signs of nervous apprehension en route to his 61st first-class half-century against Yuvraj Singh’s India Red at the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik stadium in Greater Noida, before incessant rains washed away almost two sessions of the day’s play.

Put in to bat on a green track, Gambhir and Karnataka batsman Mayank Agarwal displayed assured footwork and clarity of intent as the duo brought up the first hundred-plus opening stand of the tournament.

While Gambhir, batting with an open-chested stance, played the ball late and close to his body, Agarwal overcame a shaky start to produce some sumptuous punches and drives through the off-side. The pitch, as promised by a senior member of ground staff on the eve of the match, remained true and easy for strokeplay. None of India Red’s three pacers - Nathu Singh, Pradeep Sangwan and Ishwar Pandey - could extract any help from the surface.

Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who returned his best match figures in first-class cricket of 9 for 120 in the previous game against India Green, struggled with his length and was guilty of dropping the ball too short. Off-spinner Akshay Wakhare was also ineffective, and by tea, skipper Yuvraj Singh had to bring himself to bowl.

Chances aplenty

However, it didn’t start badly for the Reds. Nathu Singh, who grabbed a six-for in the previous match, got the first ball of the match to rise sharply off the length. It caught Agarwal by surprise and the right-hander hurriedly played it to the leg side. The lob landed wide of short-leg.

Gambhir too had a scratchy start. The out-of-favour India batsman rode his luck when he miscued a pull off Nathu Singh and Pradeep Sangwan, fielding at deep fine leg, was late on the dive. Soon, Sangwan drew an edge from his Delhi captain but it fell short of Dinesh Karthik at first slip. Next ball, the left-armer rapped Gambhir on the pads, but the batsman survived. Sangwan also beat Agarwal’s outside edge a number of times and his first spell of five overs yielded just 9 runs.

Rain washed out most of the day’s play. (Virendra Singh Gosain/HT PHOTO)

The sky turned overcast after 30 minutes of play, and there was anticipation of swing and seam movement as Yuvraj Singh brought on Ishwar Pandey. The 27-year-old stuck to a tight line but failed to extract any help from the track. Left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who was removed from attack after just one over, was promptly cut for four on return by Gambhir. That was to be Yadav’s template for the rest of the day as the 21-year-old continued to drop it short with alarming frequency.

Gambhir survived a run-out scare shortly before lunch and four overs later— the 27th of the innings—Nathu Singh caught Agarwal’s leading edge off his own bowling, only to find out that it was a no-ball.

The post-tea session started under floodlights, heavy cloud cover and a steady breeze from the east. Kuldeep Yadav pinged Gambhir on the pad but the southpaw survived, before the skies opened up to hand opening day honours to India Blue.