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Viru stoops, Delhi stumble

In just under an hour of his domination in the middle, Virender Sehwag showed his willow still has the firepower. That his team, Delhi, eventually lost by 18 runs to India Blue in the first Challenger Trophy tie mattered little to the crowd. Khurram Habib reports.

cricket Updated: Sep 27, 2013 01:48 IST
Khurram Habib
Virender Sehwag

In just under an hour of his domination in the middle, Virender Sehwag showed his willow still has the firepower.

That his team, Delhi, eventually lost by 18 runs to India Blue in the first Challenger Trophy tie mattered to the crowd only because Viru couldn't reproduce the kind of knock from two years ago, when he smashed the highest ODI score of 219 at the same venue.

Once his 59-run innings ended, more than half of the 15,000-strong crowd of cricket fans melted away in less than an hour.

Delhi's luck and resistance also vanished, although there were late assaults from the tail to make the loss look slightly honourable.

Tough chase
Delhi began the 271-run chase by sending youngster Mohit Sharma to open with Unmukt Chand, but the rookie had no clue against Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Virat followed soon after, edging one off a drive.

Sehwag, with lot of talk surrounding his keenness to move down the order, came in at No. 4, took charge as only he can after roars greeted his arrival, the Holkar Stadium reverberating with the chanting of his name.

The first shot, through cover, went for four and then, a couple of twos followed -- shots making the wily Bhuvneshwar suddenly look innocuous. A dab and a cut through point and a six over long-off triggered Delhi's charge back into the game.

Sehwag had hardly attended practice sessions with Delhi, skipping even a warm-up game. But there in the middle lay the answer, that long-standing philosophy of trusting his self-confidence and smashing that of others.

The drop to No. 4 was either an acknowledgement of declining reflexes or an attempt to improve chances for a spot in the India middle order. It was a team decision, as Rajat Bhatia later said, but for whatever reason, it almost worked.

Even Bhuvneshwar, usually on target from the start, bowled a couple of consecutive wides, and that was Sehwag's success.

While he stood and delivered on a true, sun-baked wicket, runs flowed. But the moment the pace was taken off the ball, things became tough. He restlessly stepped out to smash left-arm spinner Iresh Saxena only to give a return catch.

While the stars dazzled briefly, the domestic warhorses were the ones who carried their teams. Abhishek Nayar took India Blue from 4-down for little to 270 with a man-of-the-match effort of 91, and then Rajat Bhatia (65) held on till the end to give Delhi hopes of an unlikely victory.

But the experienced India Blue bowlers proved too strong, even on a track that had eased for batting.

Brief scores: India Blue 270/6 in 50 overs (Nayar 91, Reddy 53; Bhatia 3/46) bt Delhi 252 all out in 47.5 overs (Bhatia 65, Sehwag 59; Rajpoot 3/44, Bhuvi 3/58)