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Best of Bisht keeps Delhi’s hopes alive

Delhi ended the morning session on Day 3 of their Ranji Trophy Elite Division Group B tie at 181 for five chasing Bengal’s 522.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2009 21:44 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya

Delhi ended the morning session on Day 3 of their Ranji Trophy Elite Division Group B tie at 181 for five chasing Bengal’s 522. Their captain Rajat Bhatia had just got out. The right-hander tried to clear the in-field and only succeeded in looping a catch to Ashok Dinda off left-arm spinner Iresh Saxena, prompting the umpires to call lunch.

However, if Bengal thought they would be able to run through the rest of the batting order and enforce the follow-on then they were wrong because in strode Puneet Bisht and the diminutive wicketkeeper batted through the rest of the day, sharing crucial partnerships along the way.

At stumps, Delhi were 348 for seven with Bisht batting on 103 — his third first-class century and second this season — and Ishant Sharma on a confident 16. The visitors are still 25 runs short of making Bengal bat again, but on a wicket that has not deteriorated all that much, they should be able to do that. With the Karnataka-Saurashtra and Baroda-Maharashtra matches still not decided, the equation of the group will not be clear till the final day of league matches. Bengal will want a first-innings lead and three points that will ensure their safety, while Delhi will want one point to make sure they get to the quarter-finals.

Apart from being the first step to avoiding an outright loss, Delhi have another reason to save the follow-on. Their bowling in the first innings was 13 overs behind the rate, according to a source, and they will want another chance to improve that in the second innings. That will only happen if they can get Bengal to bat again.

Delhi began the morning session well with overnight batsmen Aditya Jain and Mithun Manhas looking confident against the medium-pace duo of Ranadeb Bose and Dinda. The wicket remained slow and there wasn’t much movement.

Manhas was off the block faster. He took full toll of the width provided to him by Bose and Dinda on more than one occasion to flay boundaries through the off side off the front foot and back. When Saxena came on, Manhas went down the wicket and hit him for six over long-on. He got to his fifty by square-cutting Bose for four.

However, slowly Saxena and off-spinner Sourasish Lahiri took control of proceedings by bowling a tight line and keeping men around the bat. Jain in particular looked in trouble and unlike Manhas, was not confident of going down the wicket. He nearly got stumped off Saxena when on 42 and reached his fifty by spooning a delivery from the same bowler over the head of short cover.

Saxena got his man soon though as Jain’s forward defensive push was caught by Rohan Banerjee at silly point. Then Lahiri trapped Manhas in front and Delhi were in trouble.

That trouble deepened with the departure of Bhatia, but Bisht was there for the rescue act with Gaurav Chabra shining in a supporting role. Pradeep Sangwan and Ishant also chipped in to keep Delhi alive.