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The Report by Amol Karhadkar in Mumbai
November 17, 2013
Mumbai 324 and 347 for 6 dec (Tare 122, Lad 85) drew with Delhi 324 and 198 for 0 (Chand 106*)
When Mumbai declared their second innings with 25 minutes remaining for lunch on the last day of the Ranji Trophy Group A league game, a gathering of about 150 to 200 spectators would have wanted Delhi to go for the stiff target of 348 runs off 63 overs at the Mumbai Cricket Association's Bandra Kurla Complex facility.
Unmukt Chand started off with intent, hitting Zaheer Khan for three boundaries before Delhi went into lunch at 21 for no loss off four overs. However, captain Gautam Gambhir dropped anchor once the openers came out in the second session and it resulted in a drab draw, following a thrilling tie in the first innings. Both the teams thus earned one point each, with Delhi in a spot of bother after tallying three points from as many games. The only positive for Delhi was that Chand made most of a life offered by Wasim Jaffer at first slip and registered his fourth first-class century.
Both teams shook hands moments after Chand reached his hundred in the last over before the mandatory overs were to begin. Delhi were 198 for no loss at that stage, with Virender Sehwag hitting a quickfire 35 after Gambhir retired not out earlier in the last session. Instead of his strokeplay, Gambhir's innings highlights were the manner in which he left the ball outside off and the two reprieves he received from sloppy Mumbai fielders.
Considering that Delhi were in a desperate need to maximise their tally, their decision to not even make an attempt at going for the chase surprised not just the spectators but even the Mumbai camp. "It was surprising that they didn't even try to chase it down. We thought that with such a star-studded line-up, with Chand, Gambhir, Sehwag and Manhas, who hit a brilliant century in the first innings, they would do their best to make a match of it. Somehow they didn't," Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni said after the match.
Once Delhi adopted the safety first approach, Mumbai also gave up the hunt for wickets on a flat deck, with Zaheer bowling just one over in the last two sessions. Though left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar and Zaheer's new-ball partner Javed Khan looked impressive, they were not aided in the field. The most lacklustre of them all was Balwinder Singh Sandhu, who was smashed for 25 runs off his last two overs by Sehwag.
Delhi coach Sanjeev Sharma, however, defended his team's tactics. "On a wicket with red soil, scoring over five runs an over was going to be impossible, so we decided to have some batting practice," Sharma said.
With 13 points from three games, Mumbai are sitting atop the Group A standings. While Zaheer and Co will enjoy a ten-day break before facing Vidarbha at home from November 28, Delhi return home after a string of away games to face Haryana from November 21.
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