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Rub of green track goes against Delhi

Right from the start of the Saurashtra innings, both Nehra and Ishant failed to get any assistance from the wicket, writes CS Luthra.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2006 17:07 IST

Delhi skipper Mithun Manhas probably wished a wrong gift from Santa Claus - instead of asking for a win over Saurashtra, he probably asked for luck at the toss on a greenish wicket.

He did win the toss, but went wrong with his team selection. Judging by the way the wicket behaved, he must be ruing his choice of three seamers for the match, as Saurashtra finished the first day's play on 284 for three.

Sitanshu Kotak was unbeaten on 92 while young Cheteshwar Pujara knocked up an entertaining 85. Before them, opener Sagar Jogyani had spanked the Delhi attack with his 61.

Despite the greenish hue of the track, it had not assisted pacers in the season's earlier games. Manhas chose to gamble with three medium-pacers - Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma and Amit Bhandari- and a spinner, Suhail Sharma, who was surprisingly chosen ahead of Chetnya Nanda.

Offie Suhail got to make his debut simply because Saurashtra have three left-handers in their squad, but anyone watching Bhandari's indifferent show with the ball and in the field would have wondered why Delhi preferred him over a second spinner.

Right from the start of the Saurashtra innings, both Nehra and Ishant failed to get any assistance from the wicket despite not lacking in effort. Nehra finally got the breakthrough when he removed Kanaiya Vaghela for 17 in his seventh over, following it up with the wicket of Prashant Joshi in his very next over.

However, the Saurashtra batsmen never looked uncomfortable: Jogyani and Kotak, in fact, forced Manhas to look out for other bowling options, and thus Bhandari got to bowl his first over in competitive cricket for over six months, after his shoulder surgery.

Anyone who has seen a fully fit Bhandari in action would have been shocked at the pacer's present condition. Though he did try his best, from taking a long run-up to bending his back a little extra, he did not seem fit enough to do that extra bit that could have got him the wickets.

It is time the Delhi selection committee takes a serious re-look at the way they are selecting the team.

Delhi got their third wicket when Ishant deceived a well-set Jogyani with a yorker. After that, Kotak played true to his reputation, rotating the strike with his soft touches, while Pujara was clearly the pick of the day with his 130-ball 85. The India Under-19 star would thank Suhail for dropping him off his own bowling at 24, but he otherwise looked very much on course to repeat his last-match feat of 177 against Tamil Nadu.

Saurashtra 1st innings (K Vaghela c Bisht b Nehra 17, S Jogiyani b I Sharma 61, P Joshi lbw b Nehra 0, S Kotak batting 92, C Pujara batting 85. Extras - b-1, lb-3, nb-25 - 29).
Total (3 wkts) 284
Fall of wkts: 1-50, 2-58, 3-134.
Bowling: A Nehra 23-7-79-2, I Sharma 18-3-72-1, A Bhandari 13-2-39-0, R Bhatia 4-1-4-0, S Sharma 24-4-58-0, M Manhas 8-0-28-0.

First Published: Dec 26, 2006 17:03 IST