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Chopra's lesson on patience frustrates UP

The Delhi opener used these three virtues to great effect to score 85* on a wicket where most of his teammates were suddenly discovering demons, reports Arjun Sen.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2008 19:19 IST
Arjun Sen

THERE IS no one perfect way of playing sport. Cricket too is no different. If one cricketer's game is all about smacking the ball right from the start, another's might be about studying the wicket, gauging the attack and then scoring runs.

Such an innings might not see the ball thud into the advertising hoardings too regularly, but when it does, it is through a shot of complete authority and dominance.

It was exactly such an innings that saved Delhi the blushes on the second day of the Ranji Trophy final. Replying to UP's 342, Delhi finished the day on 196/4, still a lot of catching up to do, but a miraculous recovery from 36/4.

Aakash Chopra is an opener in the classical mould. He might not score his runs as quickly as his partners Gautam Gambhir or Virender Sehwag do, but he is just as effective. Chopra constructs an innings with patience, hard work and a lot of determination.

The Delhi opener used these three virtues to great effect to score 85* on a wicket where most of his teammates were suddenly discovering demons. Giving him company in the fightback was utility man Rajat Bhatia on 81 and had put on 160 crucial runs with Chopra when play ended.

There was always going to be assistance on this wicket for the quicks, but unfortunately the Delhi seamers couldn't find it often enough. The UP batsmen looked in complete control in the 110.1 overs they batted.

Resuming on 292/7, the UP tail proved an able partner to the unbeaten Ravikant Shukla. They added 50 runs in the morning, but more importantly made Delhi toil in the field for 20.1 overs under the sun. Shukla, on 80 overnight, fell four runs short of a ton, trying to smack Bhatia out of the park, only to be sky it to Mithun Manhas at mid-off.

It's their batting that has had everyone talking about Delhi this season. But it took Praveen Kumar just four overs to destroy Delhi's top order, removing Gambhir, Shikhar Dhawan and Manhas. Though Aditya Jain stayed a little longer, he was accounted for by Sudeep Tyagi.

Kumar and Tyagi were getting the ball do to do everything the Delhi bowlers couldn't. They were extracting good bounce, getting late movement off the pitch and troubling the batsmen. Delhi were tottering at 38/4, when Bhatia joined Chopra.

Chopra had just seen four of his partners undone by great seam bowling and needed an associate to help him weather the storm. He found the perfect aide in Bhatia. Together the two added some much-needed impetus to Delhi's reply and built what seems like the perfect platform to launch a more determined attack on UP's total on Friday.

What had started as a rebuilding process at 36/4, began to take the shape of a revival as the day progressed. Both Chopra and Bhatia, having studied the wicket, launched into an almost mini counterattack after tea. Suddenly, the ball was disappearing to the fence - and over it too - rather regularly. It was fitting then, that the two stars of the day hit the two shots of the day - Chopra with a majestic straight drive off Bhuvanesh Gupta and Bhatia with a towering six off Praveen Gupta.

A lot of work still remains for Chopra and Bhatia, but if anyone can do it, it's them.