Nayar trumps Bhatia as India Blue win
On a day that a big crowd gathered in Indore to watch Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, two of the most valuable players in Indian domestic cricket starred. Delhi's Rajat Bhatia took three wickets to reduce India Blue - missing Yuvraj with back spasms - from 56 for 0 to 66 for 3, but Abhishek Nayar refused to slow down and responded with a counterattacking 91 off 73 balls. Bhatia wasn't done yet. Delhi were struggling despite a Sehwag onslaught, but he took them close with his 65, most of which were scored in the company of the tail. Ashish Nehra scored his personal List A best, added 55 with Bhatia, but Delhi fell short by 18 runs in the chase of 271.
The news of the day might have revolved around Yuvraj's injury and Sehwag's immediate success as a middle-order batsman, but the two domestic stalwarts picked the day to give a glimpse into what they do day in and day out during the domestic season. Bhatia and Nayar don't have the dazzling skill that might make them automatic India selections, but they have the tenacity to pull their team out of trouble.
India Blue had made a solid if slow start, but Bhatia's accuracy and subtle changes of pace combined with some movement off the pitch resulted in an lbw and two bowled dismissals. Half-centurion opener Akshath Reddy made it worse for India Blue with an ungainly heave.
Back to the venue where his quick innings and large-hearted bowling and fielding had willed Mumbai back to life in the Ranji trophy last season, Nayar's quick start had already made sure India Blue didn't stall, but at 99 for 4 he took it up a notch and converted into a counterattack. Despite his peculiar stance, Nayar pulled out some drives that looked orthodox if you overlooked the preparation to play them. He drove Varun Sood's leg breaks against the spin through covers, and the best of his drives was off the back foot off and to the left of mid-off, off the bowling of Sumit Narwal.
Nayar's 91 off 73, supported by contributions from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Piyush Chawla, gave Delhi - a strong batting line-up even in the absence of Gautam Gambhir who is away playing county cricket - a challenging task. Forty minutes later, Unmukt Chand and Mohit Sharma - not to be confused with the Haryana quick - walked out to open the innings. Fifteen balls later, Delhi had lost two wickets, including captain Kohli, beginning what looks like Sehwag's audition at No. 4.
Sehwag made a good start to his move down to No. 4, running away to 59 off 38, but when he fell Delhi had a long way to go. A collapse followed, and they were reduced 169 for 8. Bhatia, though, refused to admit defeat, and found unlikely support in Nehra. Nehra looked comfortable at the wicket, which meant Bhatia didn't have to farm the strike. The 55 they added came at a run a ball. However, Uttar Pradesh's Ankit Rajpoot found a way past Bhatia's bat with one jagged back in after pitching.
Still 46 short of India Blue's total, Delhi had some more fight left. Nehra hit a six, Parvinder Awana hung around, and the India Blue faces grew tense again. With 18 required off 14, though, Awana took an almighty swing at R Vinay Kumar and lost his off stump.