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November 20, 2012
Delhi 505 for 6 (Bhatia 133*, Manhas 106) drew with Baroda 561 (Rayudu 131, Chauhan 113, Panchal 80, Gagandeep 76, Awana 4-104)
After four centuries and six half-centuries and nearly 1100 runs in four days, all Delhi and Baroda could do was to get a point each from their third round Ranji Trophy encounter at the Kotla. Replying to Baroda's 561, Delhi scored 505 for six, largely due to the twin centuries from Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia along with an entertaining half-century by Sumit Narwal towards the end.
Scoring the 347 runs on the final day to take a lead and earn three points was always going to be a difficult task on a fourth-day pitch for Delhi and the negative approach by Baroda didn't make it any easier.
Delhi's old guards - Manhas, who scored his 22nd first-class century, and Bhatia, who was playing his first game of the season - added 133 runs for the fourth wicket but took more than 50 overs in a bid to give Baroda an early look-in at the lower middle order.
Towards the end of the day and with wickets in hand, Sumit Narwal launched into left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt hitting three of his four sixes during his innings of 65, but it came too late. Bhatt, who bowled 48 overs and took three wickets, had stuck to the team's plans of bowling a negative line for most part of the innings. But Narwal's cameo provided some late entertainment after slow scoring during the first session in which Baroda had put eight fielders on the leg-side and bowled on a rib-cage line to both right-handers.
However, Manhas hit some cracking shots, including a late-cut and a cover drive that brought up his century. He was finally out for 106 off 241 balls with 15 fours but Bhatia carried on and completed his 12th hundred with a big six off Bhatt. He finished unbeaten on 133 off 282 balls and hit 13 fours and a six.
The match turned into a damp squib partly due to Baroda's decision to bat for an hour on the third morning without going for a declaration even when they had a total in excess of 500 on the board. Later, Baroda coach Sanath Kumar defended Baroda's tactics saying they didn't have a potent-enough bowling attack for the conditions.
The Kotla pitch, which has been devoid of any bounce or lateral movement, has not helped bowlers, neither has it been a batsman's paradise. A match like this, played on a surface like this, will only lessen the interest among those who love to follow domestic cricket. It's 1-1 and cricket is the loser after four days.
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