A single by Rajat Bhatia off Tamil Nadu's D Tamilkumaran in the eighth over on Sunday marked a new beginning for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy here at the Ferozeshah Kotla. Amidst wild celebrations in the Delhi dressing room, Bhatia hugged his senior partner Vijay Dahiya as if thanking him for his tireless efforts on all four days as they secured two vital points by going past Tamil Nadu's first innings total of 347.
That was it for the day. The only celebration witnessed after that was when Dahiya reached his third first-class century off 170 balls. Though both Bhatia and Dahiya also went past the 150-run mark, there was no real interest left in the match after the hosts took the lead. A dead wicket and the poor approach of the Tamil Nadu batsmen in the first innings had already sealed the fate of the match.
Delhi finally declared at 491 for seven, soon after Dahiya got out after smashing 152, and it was just too late for any TN batsman to make an impact in the remaining 25 overs. As the match was called off before the start of the mandatory overs, Tamil Nadu ended their second innings at 66 for two.
Delhi, having taken two points from their season-opener, will have to thank Dahiya, apart from the Tamil Nadu batsmen, of course. Dahiya took guard at a point when Delhi were five down for 208, 140 behind TN's first innings total, and he changed the complexion of the match with his attacking approach.
The five quick boundaries he hit off speedsters V Yomahesh and D Tamilkumaran took the pressure off Delhi on Saturday evening, and the way he took on these two on Sunday morning was the highlight of the four days of play. It was because of his efforts with the bat that Delhi managed a lead of 144 in almost the same number of overs their opponents faced in their innings.
The 33-year-old Dahiya has been facing extreme criticism ever since his return to the team after an absence of one year, and the performance here has certainly put an end to it.
"I was not deterred by the criticism. I was focussed on what I can contribute for my team," said the former India stumper, adding: "I decided to play some positive cricket there in the middle, because I knew that there was no recognised batsman after me and Rajat."
Delhi coach Chetan Chauhan also could afford a laugh. He promised a better wicket for the remaining home games. "This track was not fair to the bowlers, but I promise that the wickets for the remaining matches would have something for both batsmen and bowlers.”