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Mohali take on Delhi even as the Harbhajan-Sreesanth episode dominates conversation, reports Anand Vasu.

cricket Updated: Apr 27, 2008 01:36 IST
Anand Vasu

Harbhajan Singh might have left for Mumbai where his team plays their next match but the after-effects of Friday night’s unpleasantness hung thick around the Punjab Cricket Association stadium like a bad odour. Even as the Delhi team arrived on Saturday and practiced, the buzz around the ground surrounded the Harbhajan-Sreesanth fracas.

At the pre-match press conferences, though, an attempt was made to return to business as usual as the two camps shouldered arms to questions about the incident.

Yuvraj Singh, leader of the Mohali team, said his side had marked out opposition skipper Virender Sehwag as a major threat.

“He’s a tremendous batsman but we have a few plans for him. Hopefully we will be able to execute those plans tomorrow,” said Yuvraj, whose team just registered its maiden win of the tournament on Friday in comparison to Delhi, who have posted two comprehensive wins in as many games.

On the flip side, Delhi come into this match having won both games by nine wickets, and this means that the middle-order has rarely been tested so far. Sehwag explained that his batsmen had a very purposeful practice session in Delhi on Thursday and also got a good work out in Mohali. At the same time Sehwag admitted that “it is a concern for us,” while saying, “And we have quality batsmen who have played international and domestic cricket and so know how to play on Indian wickets.”

But the story for Delhi so far has been their bowling. Against all opposition Glenn McGrath has laid down the law in his first spell and he’s been well supported by Farveez Maharoof , Rajat Bhatia and Vijaykumar Yomahesh. Once the bowling has done its bit the batting has come to the party, stroking the ball with freedom and enthusiasm to romp to victory.

In these games, barring the shocker of a pitch at Kolkata, barely a word has been spoken about the surfaces these games are being played on. It was the same in Mohali, with what once used to be a sporting pitch having been adapted to Twenty20 standards. The pitch is likely to play true for the whole duration of the game, but you still get the feeling that Delhi would prefer to field first.

In any which way, when the first ball is bowled on Sunday, it will provide temporary relief for all concerned.

Controversy will be on the back foot and cricket will reclaim its place in the limelight once more.