Delhi v Tamil Nadu, Ranji Trophy Elite 2011-12, Delhi, 2nd day November 18, 2011

Nehra returns to first-class cricket

At the end of his first full day of first-class cricket in three years, Ashish Nehra found himself pleased - and sore - at having survived 16 overs of bowling on the Feroz Shah Kotla's eccentric wicket in Delhi's Ranji Trophy match against Tamil Nadu.

"I've been bowling in the nets and training for weeks now and thought that it would be better to play in a match and see how I can do," Nehra told ESPNcricinfo. "If this match goes fine, I will be able to play in least three of Delhi's six matches."

Nehra's last four-day game for Delhi was against Hyderabad in early November 2008. His return at the Kotla, with its early morning assistance for swing and general low bounce for the rest of the day, had gone well. Nehra said that it was only in the short three-over burst at the end of the day, "that I began to get a bit tight." After stumps, Nehra spent close to two-and-a-half hours cooling down and stretching.

The advantage of an eight-day gap between the fixtures against Tamil Nadu and Baroda has encouraged Nehra to assess his fitness in the four-day game. "It's not that I don't want to play in the longer version of the game, to say that is not right, I would love to play it if I could," he said. "I know my body cannot handle two four-day games with a gap of only three days between them. It's not the bowling that is a problem, it's the 90 overs in the field that in the past, have caused strains and injuries ... It is no fun sitting at home and not playing, only training and bowling in the nets."

Delhi captain Mithun Manhas said Nehra's advice helped the team's two younger pacemen, Parvinder Awana and Pradeep Sangwan. "It is always good to have a player's of Ashish's experience around and it eggs the younger bowlers on."

Nehra's last match for India was the World Cup semi-final against Pakistan during which he broke the fingers on his right hand while diving for the ball. It required surgery in five places and bone grafts from his wrist. At the Kotla on Friday, he dived on the field once more. "I did not feel under pressure at the start of the day, but I was thinking, 'will I be okay, will everything go well?' And so far it has. Now let's see what happens."

Nehra made his comeback to the Indian team in September 2009 after a gap of four years. In the run-up to the World Cup, he became India's highest wicket-taker in limited-overs in the previous two years, with 78 wickets in both ODIs and T20 and was part of World Cup-winning squad. After his post-World Cup return from injury, Nehra was disappointed to neither be picked for the two ODI series against England nor be among the BCCI's list of centrally contracted players. Of the World Cup-winning team, only Nehra and Yusuf Pathan have not been awarded BCCI contracts.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo