Ishant's accuracy restricts Rest of India to 252
Ishant Sharma bent his back on a benign pitch to help Delhi restrict a star-filled Rest of India batting line-up on the first day of the Irani Trophy. He triggered a dramatic collapse after a free-stroking Wasim Jaffer and a circumspect Rahul Dravid had raised 77 for the first wicket. From 105 for 1 at lunch, Rest of India slumped to 187 for 8, before a mix of adventurous strokes from the tailenders gave a semblance of respectability to the innings.
Ishant extracted variable bounce from a pitch that offered no pace or lift to bring the game alive in the post-lunch session. Even in the first session, he had managed to trouble Dravid enough to induce an exasperated slash outside the off stump, and he eventually got his reward by trapping him lbw with an incoming ball that had a hint of reverse-swing. He also harried VVS Laxman with a few balls that climbed up the batsman's throat.
Ishant claimed Badrinath soon after when the batsman played on to a length ball wide outside off stump. Badrinath had survived a similar shot earlier when an inside edge missed the stumps on its way to the fine-leg boundary. Mohammad Kaif survived a close leg-before appeal from Ishant but by then Delhi were in charge. His second spell of 7-2-14-2 allowed the other bowlers to turn on the pressure.
At one end Chetanya Nanda, the tall legspinner, bowled an unbroken and tidy spell of 17.1 overs after lunch, while medium-pacer Pradeep Sangwan angled deliveries away from Rest of India's right-hand line-up. Dhoni edged one such delivery and Aakash Chopra, who had dropped Dravid on two, didn't falter this time. Laxman had already departed trying to loft one over midwicket.
Anil Kumble, the Rest of India captain, chose to bat knowing the pitch was slow and could disintegrate in the next few days. Through the first session, with the ball keeping low, Delhi's fast-bowling trio of Ashish Nehra, Ishant and Sangwan found it hard to beat the bat.
But the contrasting styles play from the Rest of India openers allowed Delhi to experiment with the bowling. While Jaffer was using his wrists to drive across the ground, Dravid was biding his time before he could open up. But Dravid looked scratchy throughout; the life he received from Chopra's dropped catch was off a shorter delivery from Ishant that hit him on the thigh and deflected towards the second slip. Replays suggested he had inside-edged it.
Jaffer hit successive fours off Sangwan, the first clipped to the leg side off a fuller delivery and the next between cover and mid-off. Sehwag introduced spin after the first hour and got his first wicket soon after. Jaffer reached his fifty with a single off Nehra but once again he failed to convert it into a big score, falling in Nanda's fifth over. He tried to push a flighted delivery to midwicket but got a leading edge instead, which was caught by Virat Kohli, positioned at short cover for that sort of error.
The tailenders, RP Singh, Munaf Patel and Harbhajan Singh, added 65 for the last two wickets. They rotated the strike and combined slogs with clean hits to give their side a competitive total.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo