Rajat five-for restricts Maharashtra to 219
Delhi 23 for 1 trail Maharashtra 219 (Kanitkar 67, Bhatia 5-29) by 196 runs
Rajat Bhatia grabbed his maiden first-class five-for to dismiss Maharashtra to 219 on the first day in Nagothane. After Maharashtra had recovered from the loss of their first wicket in the second over of the day, Bhatia exploited the inconsistent bounce on the track and got five middle-order batsmen to edge to the waiting slips. Only a stodgy half-century from Hrishikesh Kanitkar and handy contributions from Vishal Bhilare and Kedar Jadhav got Maharashtra past 200.
There was a one-hour delay to the start of the game as heavy dew had dampened the outfield and the pitch. Even after the delayed start there was help for the opening bowlers, which Pradeep Sangwan and Parvinder Awana wasted by bowling either too wide or too full. After Harshad Khadiwale hung his bat out to Awana in the second over, wicketkeeper Vishant More and Hrishikesh Kanitkar led a recovery.
It was an unconvincing innings from More, though, as he kept playing and missing. When Sangwan did induce an edge from More, who was then on 8, Aakash Chopra dropped the chance at second slip. Five boundaries and 27 charmed runs later, Bhatia, in his second over, got More to drive away from the body, the edge was parried by Mayank Tehlan and Chopra redeemed himself by taking the rebound at second slip.
In the fourth and eighth overs after lunch, Bhatia struck crucial blows, removing Venugopal Rao and Yogesh Takawale, who have both scored centuries this season. Rao was lured into the drive and the extra bounce caused an edge, while Takawale got one that kicked off the good-length area and took his glove on the way to the wicketkeeper.
At 74 for 4, Kanitkar found able company in Bhilare and they kept the Delhi bowlers at bay. While Kanitkar batted in orthodox fashion, picking up gaps and hitting the occasional boundary, Bhilare either defended dourly or took the aerial route to clear the infield. During the partnership, Kanitkar reached his second half-century in successive matches when he cut offspinner Narender Singh to point. The two added 70 for the fifth wicket before Bhilare got one that kicked off a length, from legspinner Chetanya Nanda. He scored 31.
Bhatia came back and struck in the second over of his second spell as Kanitkar edged one to first slip one over before tea. In the third over after the break, Bhatia got Sairaj Bahutule to play outside off stump and Mithun Manhas took the edge at gully, giving Bhatia his five-for.
There was resistance from Kedar Jadhav and Salil Agharkar, but Nanda bowled accurately to get them both. Agharkar, the left-hand batsman, played for non-existent turn and edged to Chopra at slip while Jadhav, after a defiant innings of 33 in 81 balls, was cleaned up by a quicker one. Jadhav was the ninth wicket to fall, while Narender wrapped it up when Wahid Sayyed missed a sweep and was bowled.
Delhi came out to bat with ten overs to go and lost Dhawan before the end of the day's play. There was a close shout against both Dhawan and Chopra as they played forward with bat hidden behind pad, but the umpires saw enough doubt on both occasions. Dhawan finally fell in the seventh over, to what turned out to be the last ball of the day. He was done in by the extra bounce from Sayyed and edged to first slip. Even as Nanda walked in as nightwatchman, the umpires offered the light and Chopra gleefully accepted the offer.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo