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Delhi wrest initiative

Andhra were bowled out for 209 and Delhi were 160 for three at stumps for an overall lead of 306, reports CS Luthra.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2007 00:30 IST

Delhi skipper Mithun Manhas had indicated on Wednesday that he would not make Andhra follow on even if they got the opportunity on Thursday — in the event, the Andhra batsmen did not give him a chance to make that decision, avoiding the follow on by the skin of their teeth.

Andhra were helped by the catches Delhi dropped, especially former skipper Amit Bhandari, and the match is now heading for an interesting finish on the final day.

Andhra were bowled out for 209 and Delhi were 160 for three at stumps for an overall lead of 306, Manhas leading the way with an extraordinary knock of unbeaten 86.

Manhas was at his best after Delhi were reduced to 24 for three in their second innings. He and opener Shikhar Dhawan (unbeaten 53) have already added 136 runs off just 29 overs, taking their team close to their declaration target.

Disaster struck Delhi at the very beginning of the innings when Aakash Chopra was adjudged LBW off KS Sahabuddin's first delivery. Mayank Tehlan and Aditya Jain then gifted their wickets trying to score quick runs.

Manhas' 86 came in just 88 balls with 10 boundaries and a towering six off Faiq, while Dhawan played a sheet anchor role with his 118-ball 53. Delhi are likely to wait for the captain to reach his century before declaring on Friday --- though it would not be a huge surprise if Manhas declares at the overnight score to allow his bowlers as many overs as possible.

However, Delhi coach Chetan Chauhan said: "We are looking at batting for another four to five overs tomorrow."

Earlier, resuming at 92/4, Andhra lost the first wicket of the day when off-spinner Suhail Sharma deceived MSK Prasad in the air before taking a low catch on to his right. At that point, Andhra needed 97 more runs to avoid the follow on.

But with Delhi dropping crucial catches, Andhra's LN Prasada Reddy and Sahabuddin edged ahead. Two catches that were dropped off Suhail — Reddy at second slip by Tehlan and Sahabuddin at the mid-wicket boundary by a strolling Bhandari — proved costly. The way Bhandari failed to take that simple catch again raised doubts over his fitness. He did take three wickets, but surely he wasn't included in the team to remove the tailenders.

Jain also helped the Andhra cause when he dropped Lakshmana Kishore at the boundary with the total at 204. The ball crossed the ropes, and both Andhra and Delhi must have heaved a sigh of relief — Andhra for avoiding the follow on and Delhi for saving their captain from making a difficult decision. shekharluthra@hindustantimes.com