UP bowl out star-studded Delhi for 235
Uttar Pradesh 40 for 1 trail Delhi 235 (Bisht 52, Imtiaz 5-59) by 195 runs
On a gloomy, hazy day in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh (UP) came out beaming. Heavyweights Delhi were dismissed for 235 and UP ended the first day of their Ranji Trophy group match at 40 for 1.
Despite the grim skies and the absence of sunshine, the fall of eleven wickets - including those of the star bats, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli - meant that the atmosphere remained festive at the Nehru Stadium, with close to 8000 voluble spectators behind home-team UP.
UP's decision to bowl first worked out; they got rid of Delhi's top four, Gambhir, Sehwag, Unmukt Chand and Kohli, before lunch and it was only an 86-run partnership between Mithun Manhas and Puneet Bisht for the fifth wicket that had the total inch towards 200.
An incisive spell of quick bowling by right-arm pacer Imtiaz Ahmed late in the second session got rid of both Bisht and Manhas, before Praveen Kumar stepped in to wipe out the tail. At 52, Bisht was the top scorer for Delhi, who lost their last six wickets for 43 runs in 11.1 overs. Imtiaz ended the day with the best bowling figures of his career, 5 for 59 being his first five-for in first-class cricket.
For Delhi, the dismissal of their heavyweight batting-line up inside 66 overs is a cause for worry. Looking at the bigger picture, Delhi's big names represent half of the Indian top six that will take on England two weeks from now. To have them all gone inside the first session, with a top score of 32 among them, with less than 100 on the board could, if you are the nervous type, become a portent of impending doom.
To the more rational, this is only a domestic season opener on a sprightly pitch. Most batsmen looking for confidence and touch at the start of a season would turn away from the Nehru Stadium's track. It had a sprinkling of grass, modest bounce by Indian standards, generous carry, and did not allow Delhi's strokemakers to time the ball as much as they would have liked.
Sehwag and Gambhir opened Delhi's batting with circumspection, in response to Praveen Kumar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar's tight and teasing length. UP's bowling will not blow teams off the park but in conditions of this kind, they nibble and nick.
Only in the eighth over of the morning, Sehwag hit successive boundaries off Bhuvneshwar. Gambhir had resisted Praveen's questions asked round about his off stump, playing straight without any limited-overs dabs. The ball was wobbling a little in the heavy haze that settles everywhere during north India's winter. On a pitch like this, batsmen couldn't get 'in'; they had to stick around and look for scoring opportunities. Without patience or application, all they could actually do was get out.
In the 10th over, Sehwag, on 14, flashed at one from Bhuvneshwar and was dropped by Raina at second slip. Typically, in the over that followed he hit a crackling back-foot punch off Praveen. But in these conditions, every bowler knew he had every chance of striking. Sehwag's boundary to long-on off Praveen in the next over was followed by an edge through to the keeper; the first big wicket had fallen less than an hour into play.
Gambhir looked secure and focused and, until his dismissal, had left balls alone as wisely as he had played them. He had survived Praveen's early interrogation and had been careful in his replies. Early on in Imtiaz's first spell, however, he shouldered arms and was declared leg before. The ball had kept low on a few occasions from that end and Gambhir was unhappy.
Of the three India batsmen in the line-up it was Gambhir who had seemed good enough to go on to score more than his 32. Kohli sparkled briefly, before pushing at Bhuvneshwar, the edge flying through to Kaif at second slip. With that, before Delhi could blink, the score was 98 for 3; the Manhas-Bisht partnership was typical Ranji rearguard, but Delhi came apart when Imtiaz changed ends and came in for his third spell.
Burlier than the two Kumars, Imtiaz bowls at a far quicker clip and the movement he found in the air and off the track helped him break up Delhi's best partnership. Manhas fell slashing, Bisht to an excellent tumbling catch by Raina, who also held on to the edge from Sangwan. Praveen Kumar then stepped in and clinically cleaned out the remaining batsmen.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo