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Resilient Delhi grab Irani opening day honour

Rest of India's self-destructive batsmen collapsed in a heap to gift-wrap the opening day honour to Delhi in the Irani Cup cricket tournament in Vadodara today.

cricket Updated: Sep 24, 2008 17:57 IST

Wasim Jaffer (50) and Rahul Dravid (46) provided a sedate, if not spectacular, start but Rest of India's self-destructive batsmen collapsed in a heap to gift-wrap the opening day honour to Delhi in the Irani Cup cricket tournament in Vadodara on Wednesday.

Jaffer and Dravid stitched together 77 runs for the opening stand to lay the perfect foundation for a big total but their teammates could not care less as they kept throwing away wickets regularly and were all out for 252 in their first innings.

Delhi's resilient phalanx of bowlers sniffed the opportunity and hit back in the last two sessions to pin down their opponents.

At close, Aakash Chopra (16) and Gautam Gambhir (4) were in crease for Delhi, having already knocked 21 runs off Rest Of India's first innings total.

Earlier, Ishant Sharma (3-22) came up with a singeing spell just after lunch to start the rot before Pradeep Sangwan (3-57) ran amok in Rest of India's lower order.

Leg-spinner Chetanya Nanda (3-60) tasted success as well while Virender Sehwag (1-22) did not go wicket-less either.

After winning the toss, Anil Kumble had little hesitation in opting to bat first at the IPCL Stadium shirtfront and openers Jaffer and Dravid provided the right start too.

But hardly anything went right thereafter and chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar and his colleagues would have lot to ponder after what they saw here today.

Despite almost scoring a half-century, Dravid hardly looked like the batsman he is known as, while his illustrious teammates VVS Laxman (17) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (5) also failed to do justice to their reputation.

At number three, S Badrinath (16) was a complete let down while fellow India hopeful Mohammad Kaif (29) withered before he could really bloom.

In the morning, Jaffer and Dravid looked as different as chalk and cheese. If Jaffer cantered, Dravid crawled and the former Indian captain looked in all sort of trouble against Ishant, who somehow managed to derive awkward bounce from the lifeless track, and even treated Chetanya Nanda as if he was Ajantha Mendis.

Dravid was lucky to move beyond his personal score of two, thanks to Aakash Chopra's largess in second slip.

An Ishant delivery pitched and reared off and the inside edge flew towards second slip where Chopra dived to his left and had it in his grasp, only to see it pop out in the end.

Jaffer continued nonchalantly and went on to complete his 50 in 89 balls with the help of four boundaries.

The joy, however, proved short-lived as two balls later, he uppishly drove Nanda for Virat Kohli to take a smart catch at short extra cover and Jaffer thus threw away a golden opportunity to impress the selectors ahead of the series against Australia.

At the other end, after 51 balls of prodding and nudging, Dravid finally hit his first boundary off Nanda and grew in confidence.

His best shot was a full-blooded pull off Ashish Nehra and he went into lunch eight runs away from what seemed an imminent half-century.

Ishant, however, had other plans and the gangly Delhi pacer with flowing tresses hit back on the other side of the lunch break, trapping Dravid with one that moved in and then had Badrinath dragging one onto the stumps, leaving Rest of India at 127 for three.

Ishant almost trapped Kaif too, but his vociferous appeal could not convince the umpire and the exasperated pacer could not help but yell at the decision.

Laxman announced his arrival with a trademark pull off Sangwan that raced to the boundary and looked at ease with whatever the Delhi bowlers hurled at him.

A moment of indiscretion, however, did him in and he perished at midwicket after a wild swipe at a Sehwag deliverythus squandering a start he could well have converted into something big.

It was then Dhoni's turn to disappoint the sparse crowd. The Indian ODI and Twenty20 captain scratched around for 19 minutes, facing 17 balls before guiding a Sangwan delivery away from his body for Aakash Chopra to have something of an atonement for dropping Dravid earlier in the morning.

Sangwan also scalped Kumble (9) and Zaheer Khan (0) off successive overs to tighten the noose around Rest of India's neck. It was because of Harbhajan's entertaining unbeaten 26 that Rest of India crossed the 250-mark.