Delhi have a fight in their hands and will have to earn their way to the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals.
At stumps on Day 2 of their Elite Division Group B match against Bengal, Delhi were 68 for two with both openers back in the hut in reply to the hosts’ first-innings total of 522.
Delhi may need some points from this match to ensure they progress to the knockout stage ahead of Baroda, who were five behind them before the final round. Exactly how many, if any, Delhi will need depends on the result of the Baroda-Maharashtra match in Pune. But Delhi have definitely had to redraw their plans here.
“You start with three points, then go on to five,” Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya had said before the start of this match when asked if his side would look for full points against Bengal. As things stand now, Delhi must first look for a point and then think about three.
Although Delhi are still 305 runs short of saving the follow-on, there is no need for them to panic. The wicket remains docile though there is a little up-and-down bounce and no one has found any appreciable spin. The Bengal batsmen, and later Aditya Jain and Mithun Manhas, have shown that if one bats sensibly, the bowlers will find it difficult to earn breakthroughs.
Not for the first time this season, Delhi’s opening combination — a new one pairing Ankur Julka with debutant Rahul Yadav — failed and the first two wickets fell with 10 runs on board in 7.2 overs. Ranadeb Bose got both wickets.
First, Bose got an away swinger to bounce a little from a good length at Julka, whose outside edge was safely pouched by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha. Yadav then played a horrible shot, ducking and flaying at the same time, to loop the ball to Saha.
Manhas was hit on the chest by a Ashok Dinda bouncer and needed treatment — he was seen strapping an ice pack on his chest after play — but hung in there with Jain to ensure there were no more wickets.
The first two sessions — tea was taken a little early after Bengal’s last wicket fell — were all about the hosts, for whom Sourav Ganguly extended his century to 152 and captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla hit 132 from 137 balls with nine fours and five sixes without looking to be in any hurry.
To add insult to Delhi’s injury, Dinda hit his way to 41.
Delhi’s spinners were a big disappointment, with Vikas Mishra, Manhas and Jain going for 182 from 42 overs for one wicket. Rajat Bhatia also tried bowling off-spin but took himself off after one over in the afternoon session when Shukla hit him for 6, 4 and 4 in the last three balls.