Irani Trophy September 24, 2008

Nightmare becomes dream

The first day of Irani Cup started off badly for Delhi, but at the end of the day they are not complaining

The day didn't quite start the way we would've liked it to. We lost the toss on a typical win-the-toss-and-bat-first wicket. Though the conditions favour playing two spinners, the lack of a quality spinner among our ranks meant that we went in with our four best bowlers: three seam bowlers and Chetanya Nanda, the lone spinner.

On the other side, the ROI team opted to play five bowlers, which meant playing only five batsmen. But with MS Dhoni as the wicket-keeper, one could afford to play with one less batsman. I've played quite a few games for the ROI, and one thing has always been in common: playing five bowlers. Considering the quality of batting at their disposal, five batsmen are normally more than enough.

ROI started the day strongly, and looked in command. The ball wasn't doing anything in the air, nor off the surface. We were forced to play the waiting game, and maintaining a disciplined line and length, hoping that the batsman would commit a mistake. Even though the ball wasn't doing anything alarming off the surface, it wasn't easy to hit the ball square: the ball wasn't coming on to the bat too well, and the bounce was on the lower side. The track looked very dry on top, but perhaps there's a lot of moisture underneath and hence the ball is coming on slowly after pitching.

Once the ROI started losing wickets, we managed to tighten the noose with some inspired bowling from Ishant Sharma, Pradeep Sangwan and Nanda. All of them bowled with a lot of discipline, and maintained a tight leash. One disadvantage of playing five bowlers is that if a couple of your top-order batsmen fail and the ones who get the starts don't score big, the longish tail gets exposed a little too soon. That's exactly what happened with the ROI today, and once we saw the backs of Dhoni and Mohammad Kaif, we knew we were in with a good chance. The tail might wag for a while on surfaces like this, but when grinding is the mantra they struggle to inflict substantial damage.

Looking back at the way the day panned out, we are very satisfied with our efforts. At one stage, we were having nightmares of spending a day and half in the field waiting for the ROI to declare, but little did we know that we would be batting on the first day itself. Now the onus is on us to capitalise on our excellent bowling performance, and pile on a big score to bat the ROI out of this game.

We know that this won't be easy by any stretch of the imagination as they have a very competent attack at their disposal. The track has assisted the spinners today, which means that it will only get tougher to bat on as we come out to chase in the last innings against Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. We must seize the initiative on the second day because they have enough quality bowling and batting in their ranks to get back into the match.

But right now, it's advantage Delhi. :)

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here