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Under fire, Viru makes sparks fly

Sehwag, whose place has come under threat due to a prolonged form slump, smashes a ton in a Ranji match, reports CS Luthra.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2007 12:58 IST

Virender Sehwag waving his bat to the crowd has become a rare sight over the last few months. Ever since his 180-run knock in the West Indies about six months back, he has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Questions were raised over his lack of footwork and his careless attitude, before he had to actually pay with his vice-captaincy.

But on Wednesday, playing in Delhi's last Ranji Trophy league match against Haryana at Lahli, Sehwag was under no scrutiny. He was, in fact, playing just a few kilometres away from his home in Najafgarh, in front of his own Jat fraternity. The 5000-strong crowd, which had gathered from the surrounding areas, went crazy over every single shot that came from their hero's bat.

Sehwag grabbed this opportunity to put his worries aside for the time being after taking a bold decision to bat first in windy conditions at the Bansi Lal Stadium here. After that, it was a complete three-hour Hindi movie show for his audience.

During his 160-minute stay at the wicket, Sehwag not only waved his bat twice --- the first time after reaching his half-century --- but also put Delhi in the driver's seat at the end of the opening day's play.

Delhi were 330 for seven with the last recognised batsman Rajat Bhatia batting on 55, along with Chetnya Nanda (29).

After the 19th over, when Sehwag walked in to join his former India partner Aakash Chopra in the middle at 69, he surprised the crowd with his methodical batting and speedy running between the wickets.

The way the two rotated the strike with gentle taps around the wicket actually rekindled the memory of India's tour of Australia in 2003, when they baffled their strong opponents with the same approach.

The most entertaining session came after the lunch break when Sehwag, after completing his 50 off 73 balls, went after the Haryana bowlers. After hitting 14 runs off debutant speedster Tejinder Mann's one over, Sehwag got after leg-spinner Amit Mishra.

At 71, Sehwag twice challenged Mishra by demonstrating dummy reverse-sweeps in between the balls before despatching him to the boundary in the exact manner. Mishra kept tossing up the ball around the area Sehwag wanted him to bowl in before realising that the India opener took only 51 balls to complete his remaining runs needed for his century.

Chopra, meanwhile, walked back for 84 after playing a silly pull off Mishra. Mithun Manhas (1) stayed in briefly to witness the wild celebrations in the stadium after Sehwag raced to his ton with a short-arm pull.

The crowd disappeared in no time after Sehwag fell, caught by Mishra off his own bowling. The situation was back to normal and Mishra was back to his wicket-taking ways. His three important wickets brought about some parity between the teams, but on this wicket and in these windy conditions, the hosts would find it difficult to emulate Delhi's total.