Uttar Pradesh can be forgiven for celebrating like they’ve already won the Ranji Trophy. After all, the men from India’s largest state have forever tried to get out of the shadow of their far more flamboyant, tiny western neighbours and beating Delhi outright for the first time in Ranji history has to rank as very special.
That they did it in such style, defeating Delhi by an innings and 22 runs only made it more special. For skipper Md Kaif, it was Eid-ul-Zuha come early, while for Suresh Raina, the unlikely scalper of three Delhi wickets, it was a very happy birthday.
What made it all the more special was that it was an all-round team effort by a full-strength UP. Their bowlers were impressive, their batting, especially by Tanmay Srivastava and Parvinder Singh, stayed steady and they thoroughly exploited Delhi, weakened by injury and missing its top stars, three of who are part of the India Test squad.
Delhi meanwhile will be wondering what they can possibly do now to avoid being at the bottom of the heap. They are helped no doubt by an even worse performance so far by Maharashtra, but only three points separate the bottom placed teams, and there are still three games to go.
To compound their worries, they will be without both Shikhar Dhawan and Aakash Chopra in the next game against Saurashtra. Dhawan, in sublime form so far, broke his thumb while fielding on the first day here, while skipper Chopra will be getting married and therefore unavailable for the next game.
“The large injury count was definitely a major setback for us,” said skipper Chopra. “Let’s hope that things get better from here. We are expecting Mithun Manhas to join us for the next match and are pinning our hopes on Ashish (Nehra). Let’s hope for the best,” he added.
The only bright part for Delhi here was the performance of Virat Kohli, who, despite stitches on his finger, batted with great resolve and tried to get Delhi out of the pit that they had sunk into.
His innings lasted four hours and saw him put a fine 173-ball 145 on board.
He and Puneet Bisht added a fairly pacey 206 for the third wicket, but needed to bat through the day and it was perhaps a bit too much despite Kohli’s effort.
Kohli’s 132-ball ton was decorated with as many as 15 boundaries, laudable under the circumstances.
However, no sooner did he fall that Delhi’s scoreboard nose-dived, and the rest just folded up.