Imran Ali hat-trick gives SNGPL the edge
Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited 143 for 6 (Umar 58, Nehra 3-36) lead Delhi 134 (Kohli 52, Manhas 49, Imran 6-52, Asad 3-32) by nine runs
On a day when 16 wickets tumbled, the honours rested with Imran Ali, Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited's (SNGPL) right-arm seamer, who took a hat-trick to sink a star-studded Delhi to 134 under overcast conditions at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Imran finished with 6 for 52 , claiming the wickets of Puneet Bisht, Chetanya Nanda and Pradeep Sangwan to attain his feat, spread over two overs. However, SNGPL were in for a rude shock of their own as their top order too crumbled and ended with a slender advantage of nine runs with four wickets in hand.
The newly-laid surface at the Kotla was expected to assist the seamers on the opening day, but curiously enough, the Delhi captain Virender Sehwag opted to bat. It was a decision he would regret straightaway as he chopped one onto his stumps off Imran in the second over of the morning. His opening partner Aakash Chopra, the leading run-scorer in the previous Ranji season, started off the new campaign inauspiciously, fetching an away swinger off Asad Ali.
Virat Kohli and Mithun Manhas began the rescue act and did do in positive fashion. The pair weren't intimidated by the early swing as they counter-attacked for around 40 minutes. Manhas was the more aggressive of the two, slamming nine fours in his 49. However, the introduction of spin got SNGPL the breakthrough as Manhas offered a return catch to Imran Khalid, the left-arm spinner.
Rain forced the players off the field, and the overcast conditions played into SNGPL's hands as Imran ran through the middle order. Asad started the slide after the interruption, dismissing Rajat Bhatia for 1, before handing over to Imran. Four wickets fell for the addition of no runs as the middle order looked clueless against Imran's swing and accuracy.
Imran took three wickets in the 31st over. Mayank Tehlan edged to Adnan Akmal, Bisht was trapped lbw to one that pitched on a length and cut back in sharply and Nanda lasted just one ball, bowled by one that went straight though. With the first delivery of his next over, Imran trapped Sangwan in front with a slower ball to claim his hat-trick. Imran had incidentally taken a hat-trick in SNGPL's victory in the ABN AMRO Cup limited-overs tournament in April, making it two in a row for his side.
Another interruption - this time due to bad light - curtailed play and the innings was wrapped up soon after the resumption. The Delhi batting card had a sorry look to it, littered with five ducks and only two double-digit scores.
The Delhi seamers couldn't extract the same bounce as their opponents, with the exception of Ashish Nehra. He struck early with the wicket of Yasir Arafat, but was another when Ishant Sharma dropped Umar Akmal early in his innings. He capitalised with a half-century and with Mohammad Hafeez for company, took control with a stand of 49.
However, a steady fall of wickets helped Delhi claw back, much like the opponents did to them earlier. Both Umar and Misbah-ul-Haq were bowled by Nanda in similar fashion, playing back to deliveries that straightened. Adnan was trapped leg before by Nehra just before stumps to leave the game more evenly-poised.