This was not the first time and this will not be the last time. Young speedster Ishant Sharma, taking his first five-wicket haul in his maiden first-class season, fought a lonely battle for Delhi to bundle the visiting Baroda side for 244 on the first day of their Ranji Trophy match at the Ferozeshah Kotla here on Saturday.
Delhi were six for no loss when play was stopped early due to bad light. After Delhi were asked to bowl first, the 18-year-old Ishant not only ran through a strong Baroda batting line-up --- which included names like Rishikesh Parab, Connor Williams and Jacob Martin --- but also bowled over two former India openers, Ashok Mankad and Chetan Chauhan, with his approach.
“Please leave him alone. Give time to this youngster, who has all the ingredients to become a great fast bowler,” said Baroda coach Mankad.
Delhi coach Chauhan was also full of praise for Ishant: “He is like a tiger. He is our champion. The way he bowled today without any other bowler's support was tremendous.”
And he was right. There was hardly any seriousness in the way Delhi went into the match. Instead, there was complete confusion in the Delhi camp after they opted to include off-spinner Yogesh Sachdeva in place of Chetnya Nanda --- the highest wicket-taker last season --- and excluded with Amit Bhandari, who has declared himself fit after his shoulder surgery.
Manhas has been under tremendous pressure to play Sachdeva right from the beginning of the season. But his move to sacrifice Nanda to please the DDCA Sports Committee was something that caught even his coach by surprise.
Ishant was the lone saving grace as he came to his skipper's rescue. He forced in-form batsman Williams to offer a simple catch at forward short-leg to Rajat Bhatia in his only second over.
Before the Baroda batsmen could adjust to Ishant's length, he came up with another express delivery that took the outside edge of Parab's bat and was caught-behind.
At seven for two, Baroda looked to their skipper Martin to rescue them from this grave situation. Delhi, on the other hand, were looking to their most experienced bowler Ashish Nehra to tighten the screws. But Nehra, who missed the last three days of practice sessions, failed to live up to his team's expectations.
After bowling just four overs with the new ball, Nehra rushed to the dressing room. Though he managed to come back to the ground after some time, he could bowl only four more overs in the day. Kunnal Lall bowled well for his three wickets at the end.
There is no point in describing Sachdeva's bowling, after Baroda were reduced to 86 for five. He did take the wicket of top-scorer Rakesh Solanki (62), who gifted his wicket by playing an atrocious shot.