Chopra and Kohli stretch lead to 384
Delhi 134 and 516 for 4 (Chopra 182, Kohli 197) lead Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited 266 by 384 runs
Delhi, backed by massive scores by the overnight pair of Virat Kohli (197) and Aakash Chopra (182), gained a handsome 384-run lead on the penultimate day, but their reluctance to declare might make their task of winning the Mohammad Nissar Trophy a little difficult. The Ranji Trophy champions finished the day at 516 for 4 when rain put a full stop to the day's proceedings with 17 overs remaining.
After being bundled out for 134 in the first innings, Delhi needed to pile a big score quickly today and save enough time to aim for an outright victory. Instead, Virender Sehwag and the Delhi think-tank, surprisingly, decided to play on even though the conditions after tea appeared more in favour of the bowlers as the clouds gathered.
The day's story could've been split into two halves, with the first session going to Delhi, and the visitors wresting control after the lunch break. After a first-over maiden from the seamer Adil Raza, both batsmen reached their centuries in contrasting ways. Chopra's prod between point and cover got him to the three-figure mark, while Kohli went for the drive on the up against Raza but played too early. Fortunately, the resultant edge landed a yard in front of Misbah-ul-Haq at first slip, went past him and the batsman ran a double and celebrated his first hundred of the new season.
Once the Delhi pair had crossed their landmarks, they eased themselves and accelerated the lead. Kohli was harsh on Raza especially and anything short was pulled or cut powerfully. At the other end, Chopra played fluent drives and one of the shots of the day was the on-the-knee cover drive against Asad Ali.
With the fast bowlers failing to extract anything out of the bland pitch, Mohammad Hafeez decided to bring spin in. Just after the first hour in the morning, Kohli stepped out to drive one past the midwicket fence to reach his 150 against Hafeez. Few overs later, he pulled Imran Khalid over midwicket first for a boundary, and a ball later stepped out to hit a big six in the same region, the only one of the day.
With the wicket not offering any assistance and the SNGPL bowlers failing to attack a consistent length and line, both batsmen confidently marched towards their double-centuries. But an over-cautious approach after lunch put paid to their aspirations.
An hour after lunch, Kohli was five short of his double-century when Asad peppered him with short deliveries, trying to tempt him to pull. But as he was trying hard not to lose focus, he slowed down - he took 15 balls to move from 193 to 197 - and calamity struck. Bowling a tight line, Asad bowled a straight one, but Kohli went for an unnecessary, and premeditated flick to on side and was bowled.
After losing his partner, with whom he had shared a massive 385-run stand for the second wicket, nervous energy seemed to have crept into Chopra. At one point he got stuck in a rut after his 150 - it took him 18 balls to move from 167 to 168. Eventually his extra circumspection put paid to his downfall when a fast one down the leg side from Raza beat him for pace and knocked the leg stump.
The SNGPL bowlers had finally started to find their rhythm after their insipid performance for the better part of the first session. Bowling with more purpose, they started to add pressure on the well-set batsmen and capitalised on the only window of opportunity when Kohli and Chopra slowed down. The best session for the visitors came between lunch and tea when only 76 runs were scored and three wickets fell in 25 overs.
With just one more day to go, and if the weather holds true, Sehwag will have to declare first thing in the morning and expect his bowlers to run through the SNGPL batting line-up. Heavy rain in the afternoon led to several puddles across the outfield, and there's a danger that some water may have seeped into the pitch. A scheduled start tomorrow seems unlikely and if it's not yet too late for Delhi, they might have scripted their own fate already.