It was supposed to be the best match of the tournament, and it lived up to the billing. The only aberration was the outcome, Himachal Pradesh turning the tables on Delhi by two wickets.
The sensational victory sparked off wild celebrations as the motley crowd of about hundred spectators stormed into the ground, jostling amongst themselves, to carry off the victors. Once in the confines of the dressing room, the players let go. They shouted, danced and embraced each other till the exercise drained them of energy.
The tough 282-run chase to script a fabulous win in the Ranji one-dayer could be divided into three stages, with three batsmen leading the charge. First up, Sangram Singh gave Himachal a rollicking start, plundering about ten runs an over in the first couple of overs. The hosts made it clear that the foot was firmly on the pedal when Vikramjit Malik walked in first-down as pinch hitter to join Sangram. The duo walloped the Delhi attack and soon Himachal had 100 on the board in less than 15 overs.
Sangram hardly looked in discomfort till he played an unwarranted pull off Pradeep Sangwan to perish for 57.
Vinit Indulkar’s fall soon after left Himachal at 135 for 4, allowing Delhi to tighten their grip.
Oozing confidence, stand-in skipper Paras Dogra wrested the initiative back with some elegant drives in the middle overs. Dogra seemed to be shepherding the team well till he fell leg before to a decision he wasn’t happy with.
With the skipper gone for 44 and the team still requiring close to hundred runs, Himachal’s chances looked grim.
In stepped Ajay Mannu, and his incredible unbeaten 70 took his team to victory in the last over. Apart from the knock, Mannu impressed with the way he handled the tail-enders. He marshalled the chase quite well and kept the asking run rate within manageable limits. It was only befitting that the winning runs came from his willow.
As for Delhi, their innings revolved around Aakash Chopra and Rajat Bhatia. While Chopra dropped anchor with a characteristic composed century, Bhatia gave the team the thrust towards the end with an unbeaten 77.
Their efforts, however, went in vain as Himachal embarked on an amazing run chase.