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Young guns fire, Rest scorched

The bigger picture remained hazy after the first day of the Irani Cup match between Delhi and Rest of India at the Reliance Stadium, reports Nilankur Das.

cricket Updated: Sep 24, 2008 23:49 IST
Nilankur Das

The bigger picture remained hazy after the first day of the Irani Cup match between Delhi and Rest of India at the Reliance Stadium on Wednesday. The idea of using the season-opener as part of preparations for the Test series against Australia was only partially fulfilled.

Rahul Dravid got a start but fell four shy of a fifty, Wasim Jaffer got to a half-century but only just, VVS Laxman perished trying to clear midwicket for 17 and S Badrinath was out before getting into the 20s.

In the context of the match, Delhi will be happy with their show, restricting Rest to 252 after being asked to field first and then replying with 21 for no loss.

Ishant Sharma was the only form of penetration Delhi had on offer at the top. After an opening spell of five overs for three runs, he came back post-lunch with new found thrust. In his second spell Ishant got two crucial breakthroughs.

Virender Sehwag wanted Ishant to carry on but signs of fatigue were apparent. Ishant repeatedly lost his run-up and this forced a bowling change. Kaif was out soon after, skying one to Gautam Gambhir at mid-wicket. Pradeep Sangwan began his third spell replacing Ishant and in six overs bagged three quick wickets including Dhoni's to push Rest of India on to the back foot.

Getting India's middle order back among runs was the primary point of focus. It was half-met.

Opening with Dravid was the only way Anil Kumble could have had a look at four medium-pacers (Ishant turning for Delhi) and two spinners and given both Badrinath and Kaif a go. Dravid failed to get a confidence-boosting score.

The good point, however, was that he spent close to three hours in the middle. But just as he began to improve his scoring rate, he was trapped in front by Ishant with one that came in and kept a touch low.

Dravid was on two when Ishant got one to come in sharply. The ball took the inside edge, deflected off the thigh pad and went down in the slips. Aakash Chopra at second slip, thinking that the ball would not carry dived in front of Gautam Gambhir at first slip but spilled the catch.

Dravid waited till the 22nd over for his first boundary --- a punch off the backfoot off leg-spinner Chetanya Nanda through long-off. He then hit consecutive boundaries off Ashish Nehra --- the first one through mid-wicket and the next to fine-leg.

Badrinath too did not look comfortable, particularly against Ishant. An inside edge flew to the fine-leg boundary and in the next over he dragged one on to the stumps.

Laxman's dismissal came out of frustration of getting bogged down. The wicket had showed signs that it was slightly two-paced in the first session itself when Jaffer holed out at mid-off trying to play Nanda against the turn. Laxman chose Sehwag to go over the top and even though it was with the turn, he did not get enough bat on it to clear Mithun Manhas.

With the bowlers' footmarks getting more and more pronounced on the wicket, the second day holds the interesting prospect of how the likes of Gambhir and Sehwag, who had looked the most comfortable against Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, tackle Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble.