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Delhi save face, TN left in cold

Rajat Bhatia's stand-out performance is proof that not all is lost for Delhi cricket.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2006 01:39 IST

What a game of cricket! Till two days ago, a team like Delhi, who were not even looking fit to be playing at this level, were suddenly calling the shots against hosts Tamil Nadu. There were so many things responsible for the turn around but the performance of one single player -- Rajat Bhatia - could well be the biggest factor of all.

Bhatia's knock of 185 was all that mattered in the end as Delhi managed an honourable draw against Tamil Nadu on the final day of the Elite Group A Ranji Trophy league match at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Friday.

After putting 414 on board in reply to the hosts 481 for six declared, Delhi never allowed their opponents to come back in the match. Tamil Nadu pressed hard to put up a reasonable 182 for six in their second essay by playing 33 overs, thus setting a quite impossible target of 250 for Delhi. Skipper S Badrinath was again the pick of the lot, scoring 82 off as many balls.

As the time and situation were not in the control of the hosts, Delhi ended up with 117 for the loss of Aakash Chopra's wicket in their second innings and "successfully" remained in the Elite group. Opener Shikhar Dhawan was unbeaten on 56 while Mayank Tehlan came out not out on 36.

Even before the start of the day's proceedings, outside forces took complete command over the match. On the one hand, the threat of the Railways was looming large on Delhi mind. In case of a Railways win, Delhi were sure to be relegated. Tamil Nadu meanwhile were desperately looking for four points to qualify for the semi-final, knowing well that Karnataka had failed to garner even a single point against Gujarat in Ahmedabad.

Both sets of think-tanks were busy chalking out strategies on the sidelines. Delhi were the first to react, sending out a clear signal to their batsmen --- Bhatia and skipper Amit Bhandari --- to whack wildly or get out. Bhatia reacted immediately by hitting two consecutive sixes off offie Aashish Kapoor over the long-on ropes. The second hit was so massive that it forced TN to take off Kapoor and resort to some negative tactics to check the flow of runs.

However, Bhatia ignored the field placements and sacrificed his double century for the cause of his team, finally being caught in the deep by Kapoor off Ramkumar. The man who walked in with his head down on Thursday came back to the sustained applause of his team-mates on Friday. Bhandari followed him shortly after making a gutsy 20.

A lead of 67 was enough for Tamil Nadu to go for a do-or-die battle. The only doubt being the visitors' gameplan. As TN coach Bharat Arun said later: "We knew well by then that Railways had very few chances of winning in Kolkata. So expecting Delhi to go flat out for a win was not on."

Both the TN openers were accounted for soon by Delhi's ordinary bowling but Badrinath kept up the momentum. Watching him play a completely contrasting game to what he played during his first innings double century was a treat to watch. He showed enough signs of maturity and leadership by playing some unorthodox shots as per the demand of the match while Dinesh Kaarthick chipped in with 26.

The 10-minute changeover changed the Delhi mindset. Bengal were cruising well at 100 for one with less than 30 overs remaining. The Delhi chase was never on. Dhawan and Chopra were clearly told to play as they wished.

Chopra hit four boundaries during his short stay at the wicket before offering a bat and pad catch at backward short-leg to Badrinath for 6. Dhawan, joined by Tehlan, showed no such hurry and hung around till the end, along with their team.

First Published: Jan 16, 2006 01:39 IST