Batsmen put Punjab on course for win
Delhi 150 and 60 for 3 (Rawal 35) need another 267 runs against Punjab 74 and 402 (Jiwanjot 147, Mandeep 80)
A remarkable recovery from Punjab, led by an impressive showing from their batsmen in the second innings, has now made them favourites to get maximum points against Delhi, unless the likes of Gautam Gambhir or Virender Sehwag can chase down a daunting 327 on the final day, with just seven wickets in hand.
Delhi ended the day at 60 for three, with Unmukt Chand, Vaibhav Rawal and the ever-dependable Mithun Manhas all back in the pavilion. Their captain Gambhir, though, remained unbeaten on 22, while Sehwag is likely to arrive at the crease early in the morning as Delhi require another 267.
After Jiwanjot Singh's 147 helped Punjab recover from their 74 all out in the first innings, Mandeep Singh,along with solid contributions from the lower order, took the visitors' score to 402, with the wicketkeeper Gitansh Khera and No. 10 Siddarth Kaul sharing a partnership of 41 runs for the ninth wicket
Punjab's batsmen played two sessions on the day to add 225 runs to their overnight score of 177 for 3. This was largely possible due to Mandeep's attacking knock of 80 off 113 balls that had eight well-timed fours and a pulled six over midwicket off Ashish Nehra's bowling. Mandeep upped the ante, while Jiwanjot continued playing the role of a sheet anchor, as 105 runs came in the first session.
With Parvinder Awana not being in a position to bowl due to back problems, Gambhir had limited options. The ball got old and it became easy for the batsmen to score.
As Mandeep went for big shots, Jiwanjot continued to play his natural game of holding one end up and hitting only the odd loose deliveries for boundaries. He was handed a reprieve on 115 when Chand dropped him off Nehra's bowling at third slip, drawing Gambhir's ire.
Mandeep was out just before lunch when a Navdeep Saini delivery kept low, getting him plumb in front but, by then, he and Jiwanjot had already added 159 for the fourth wicket. Jiwanjot's seven-hour long vigil ended after the second new ball was taken, as he edged one from Saini to wicketkeeper Rahul Yadav.
Gurkeerat Singh, Jaskaran Singh and Sandeep Sharma didn't contribute much and Punjab were reduced to 329 for 8 in the 105th over. However, the Delhi bowlers gave away easy runs as last two wickets produced an invaluable 73 runs to beef up Punjab's total.
Khera played a pivotal role, hitting seven fours with most of the shots being square of the wicket. With Navdeep bowling a wrong line and Gambhir not having a point, singles and boundaries in the region between backward point and third-man were there for the taking.
Delhi began their chase poorly as Chand shouldered arms to an incutter from Sandeep and was adjudged lbw, in the first over.
Rawal joined his captain Gambhir and looked in good touch, but the latter once again looked raw - playing and missing a few. Rawal hit some elegant drives to keep the scoreboard moving and the duo added 59 runs for the second wicket, but the extra 30 minutes that was scheduled to cover up for lost time became Delhi's undoing.
First, Rawal dragged a delivery from Manpreet Gony back to his stumps and Manhas was removed by Jaskaran Singh with a ball that darted in.
Nehra was sent in as the nightwatchman, but the onus will be on Gambhir and Sehwag on day four, to try and salvage something from the game.