Rayudu and Chauhan dent Delhi
Baroda 252 for 3 (Rayudu 83*, Chauhan 82*) v Delhi
Delhi captain Shikhar Dhawan might start wondering whether his decision to field on a dead track was the correct one after Baroda reached 252 for 3 on the first day at the Feroz Shah Kotla with minimum difficulty.
Baroda, led by their stand-in captain Ambati Rayudu because Yusuf Pathan was injured, showed the conditions weren't too tough at the Kotla. Rayudu ended the day on 83 and 25-year-old Abhimanyu Chauhan was with him on 82.
Save a 15-minute period in the post-lunch session, when the experienced Rajat Bhatia struck twins blows, there was not much to cheer for Delhi on a track where even the pacy Parvinder Awana found that his short ball travelled on second bounce to the wicketkeeper Puneet Bisht.
It was a track on which patience was the key and Chauhan showed that he possessed it in abundance. A strong on-side player, whenever the bowlers erred in length, Chauhan was quick to dispatch the ball in the arc between midwicket and mid-on. He batted more than four-and-a-half hours and one of the highlights of his innings was the ease with which he shifted gears. Until Rayudu got set, Chauhan attacked the bowling, but once Rayudu took over, he dropped anchor at other end.
Rayudu's batting against spinners was thrilling to watch. On a slow track, he got to the pitch of the ball as he repeatedly hit left-arm spinner Manan Sharma straight. Rayudu struck 13 boundaries in his innings.
Ashish Nehra again showed why he has earned a reputation of being injury prone as he bowled six overs and broke down. According to coach Vijay Dahiya, Nehra sustained a hamstring injury which kept him off the field for more than four hours of the first day.
On a pitch like this a total of 450 should be good enough to defend as Baroda's left-arm-spinner Bhargav Bhatt can be a bit more dangerous on a low track than rookie Manan, the son for the prolific former Delhi batsman, Ajay Sharma. For Delhi, Manan's performance is something that will worry coach Vijay Dahiya. It was a slow pitch and the ball was keeping low, but Manan didn't use any variations and looked flat. When Rayudu kept on giving him the charge, he didn't show any inclination to change the length.
Awana, the Delhi fast bowler looking to make the step up to the international level, bowled with heart but he didn't have any wickets to impress the watching national selector Saba Karim. Even with the second new ball, the Delhi bowlers didn't look like troubling the set pair of Rayudu and Chauhan, who added 143 runs for the unbroken fourth-wicket stand.
Credit should also be given to Aditya Waghmode, who saw off the new ball with a gutsy 54 and set the stage for Chauhan and Rayudu to consolidate.