A first is special and so it was for Unmukt Chand. In his fourth Ranji outing, Unmukt scored his maiden first-class century on Thursday against the Railways as Delhi took a slim first innings lead of 31 runs.
Overnight 48 for no loss at the Roshanara grounds, Delhi lost Shikhar Dhawan early as JP Yadav had him caught behind for 39. Aditya Jain and Mayank Tehlan were quick to follow, falling to skipper Sanjay Bangar in similar fashion. Gaurav Chabra (39) looked in good touch before he pulled one into the hands of Harshad Rawle. Chabra added 83 for the fourth wicket with Unmukt.
When the experienced Rajat Bhatia came out in the middle, Unmukt was on 90. After playing freely, Unmukt took 36 balls and 55 minutes to notch up the remaining 10 runs, but that could be expected from a 17-year-old chasing his maiden Ranji ton.
The wait got over with a four to point. Carrying on, Unmukt reached his 150 with a massive six over mid-wicket. He fell on 151, caught behind. The knock contained 19 boundaries and two sixes, and the effort ensured that Delhi took the lead before being bowled out for 290 in reply to Railways' 259.
"The first hundred is always special and even more when the team needs it. The wicket had something in it for the bowlers and both Sanjay (Bangar) and JP (Yadav) bowled well throughout the day," Unmukt told HT.
With two half-centuries in prior outings, Unmukt said, "The century was not on my mind till I reached 90. The first thing I thought was that I should stay at the wicket as long as possible as the others were getting out. However, I did get a little nervous when I got close but Rajat bhai encouraged me."
It was a special day for Unmukt as his father, Bharat Thakur, and coach, Sanjay Bharadwaj, were on hand to witness the knock.
"He's scored runs in every form of cricket but today he proved that he can also play a long innings, which is very important if one wants to play at the highest level," said Bharadwaj.
An economics teacher, Thakur said apart from the batting talent, Unmukt's modest upbringing also helped. "He is very humble and calm for his age, even when things are not going his way."
Delhi coach, Manoj Prabhakar, too praised Unmukt's knock. "He played an excellent knock at a time when the team needed it."
After reaching his 100 to the time when he fell for 151, Unmukt lost four partners in Bhatia, Punit Bisht, Sumit Narwal and Pradeep Sangwan.
It was the experience of Bangar and Yadav that helped Railways bowl Delhi out. Yadav picked up five while Bangar returned with four. Murali Kartik did not bowl as he was suffering from back spasms.