Punjab complete stunning turnaround
Punjab 74 (Nehra 4-31) and 402 (Jiwanjot 147, Mandeep 80) beat Delhi 150 (Chand 55) and 228 (Bhatia 100, Gony 3-51, Jaskaran 3-45) by 98 runs
Punjab, who had been bowled out for 74 in their first innings, capped a remarkable recovery to defeat Delhi by 98 runs and keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockouts. Needing 327 to win, Delhi were all out for 228 in 91.3 overs, despite a valiant 100 from Rajat Bhatia, who took multiple blows on his body on a difficult track.
Punjab now have 23 points from seven games, and are tied with third-placed Gujarat. Delhi, with 19, have a massive task ahead of them in their final group match. They will need to beat group-toppers Karnataka and hope that other results go their way.
Delhi's ploy of gunning for maximum points on a seamer-friendly Roshanara track backfired this time, with Punjab's attack proving far more potent than those of previous opponents like Haryana and Vidarbha. Manpreet Gony, Siddarth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma were as effective as Ashish Nehra, Parvinder Awana and Sumit Narwal.
At the start of the day, Delhi needed 267 to win with seven wickets in hand. Gautam Gambhir began on an edgy note, getting one to run past the slips before clipping a boundary off Sandeep. But the pressure told on him after Delhi were stuck on 70 for 39 balls. Gony got one to kick from short of a length and move away, and Gambhir edged to Gurkeerat Singh in the slip cordon.
Virender Sehwag's stay at the crease was brief, as has been the case for most of this season. He started with a glorious off-drive off Gony, who then surprised him with a short one. Sehwag fended at the ball, which over the slips for a second boundary. He had moved to 12 when a delivery from Jaskaran Singh stopped on him. He attempted to check his lofted on-drive, but only managed to spoon it to Sandeep Sharma at mid-on.
Bhatia was hit twice on the forearm and twice in the ribs during 182-ball stay at the wicket. He struck 16 fours while scoring his 14th first-class ton. It was no surprise that he was ready to put his body on the line, but Nehra's four-hour stay at the wicket was a revelation. Having come in as nightwatchman, Nehra gutsed it out for 128 balls and put on 82 with Bhatia in 34.2 overs, as Delhi pursued three points for their first-innings lead.
Punjab finally broke the sixth-wicket stand when they brought on offspinner Gurkeerat. He got one to go through straight and Nehra edged it to Jiwanjot Singh at second slip. Off the very next delivery, Gurkeerat got rid of Rahul Yadav, caught by Yuvraj Singh at first slip. It was 167 for 7, and the result looked a formality. All that remained was to see if Bhatia would reach his milestone. He did, with Sumit Narwal hanging in for 31 balls and Parvinder Awana for 26 to help him over the line.
Bhatia reached 99 with successive pulls before tapping Sandeep towards short cover to reach the landmark with a single. He was the last man out for Delhi, nicking one from Gony to keeper Gitansh Khera.