Match ends in a draw but dead pitch is the winner

Dahiya, Bhatia make two points for Delhi

The Bulletin by Anand Vasu in Delhi

November 26, 2006

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Eight overs into the day's play, this match effectively ended as a contest when the first innings lead was decided; as the match meandered to a draw on a lifeless pitch, Delhi, who took two points, spent the rest of the day getting batting practice. It put into sharp focus what Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, said in Hyderabad today, that India needed more sporting domestic pitches.

Pawar's reference point was the Durban debacle, and how better pitches at home would help Indian batsmen when they played abroad, but he might also have addressed the other, possibly larger, concern: Domestic cricket needs better pitches for better contests, to simply improve as a spectacle.

In any case, this match was dead when Rajat Bhatia picked off a single off D Tamil Kumaran to take the Delhi score past Tamil Nadu's 347. With the first-innings lead secured, there was little to look forward to for either side, and Bhatia and Vijay Dahiya made the most of a cool, wintry day to post big hundreds.

There was just the slightest chance that Tamil Nadu could put in an inspired spell on the final morning and hold Delhi back. The morning session at the Kotla has always been tricky but Delhi had got their plans dead right on the third day itself when Dahiya came out to bat and hit a succession of boundaries. "I had not planned to go after the bowling. But I knew that it could be hard to bat in the morning so I played aggressively," said Dahiya. "I wanted to ensure that we had as little to do as possible on the final morning."

Dahiya, who had reached 51 at the end of the third day, and is making a comeback to the Delhi team after sitting out the whole of the last season, continued to bat with a fluency and effectiveness no other batsman had shown in the game. "It just happens that sometimes one batsman scores while others miss out. I didn't do anything different," said Dahiya, whose 152 included 29 boundaries.

Bhatia, who made a big hundred against Tamil Nadu last season as well, looked well set to get to a double-century when he holed out to R Sathish at long off against the now occasional left-arm spin of S Vidyut. He'd probably have got there had he decided to bed down instead of take chances but, with 166 runs under his belt and close to 10 hours at the crease, he decided to have a go and failed to clear long off.

Dahiya's dismissal, hitting S Badrinath to midwicket, prompted Delhi to declare at 491 for 7 and give their spinners an extended bowl. Ishant Sharma, the young medium-pacer, sent down just one over in the second innings, while Ashish Nehra, who had toiled for 40 overs in the first innings, did not even take the field. With Tamil Nadu on 66 for 2 the match was called off at the start of the mandatory overs.

"We have been training hard for the last 40 days, especially on the physical fitness aspect, and this is the result," said Chetan Chauhan, the Delhi coach. He added that there was hope that the Delhi and District Cricket Association would prepare better pitches for the games ahead where "the balance between bat and ball is more even."

Woorkeri Raman, Tamil Nadu's coach, told Cricinfo that he did have positives to take from this match. "One has to realise that there's a fair bit of inexperience in the bowling attack. Yomahesh bowled well and this is only his third Ranji Trophy match, he's just learning the ropes," he said. "Considering that this was an away game and we played three debutants, in a way it was good that we got the warning signs early on. This gives you a chance to take something out of the game and then try and rectify what you have to and get things in order for the rest of the season."

Raman also listed the performance of M Vijay, the debutant opening batsman, as a positive. "It's a completely different thing for a youngster to come into first-class cricket," he said. "What was especially pleasing was the fact that he showed the ability to graft, unlike the flamboyance which you normally associate with Tamil Nadu batsmen."

Raman is not known for mincing words, though, and you can be sure he would have had a few blunt things to say to his players in the privacy of the dressing-room. But made no excuses for his team's performance. "We didn't take the chances that came our way. We did not take off when we had a launching pad while batting. Badri and Vijay did a good job in stabilising the innings, but from there on we did not capitalise," he said. "On this wicket, which was a nightmare for bowlers, 450-500 was definitely possible. We didn't get that, and even then, when we bowled, having got the early breakthroughs and picking up a wicket with the second new ball, we did not capitalise."

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo

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