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January 5, 2007
Delhi 49 for 3 trail Baroda 199 (Shah 46, Gaekwad 43, Bhandari 4-52, Narwal 4-56) by 150 runs
Thirteen wickets fell on a bowler-dominated opening day in Indore as Delhi took the early initiative before letting it slip in the final session. Amit Bhandari, now in his tenth year in domestic cricket, made excellent use of the new ball, and four-wicket hauls by him and Sumit Narwal bundled out Baroda for a measly 199. However, Baroda hit back with three quick wickets, before Mithun Manhas and Aditya Jain guided Delhi to 49 for 3 at close of play.
The pitch didn't hold any terrors - the ball mostly kept low, though a few cocked up from a length - but both teams still struggled for runs, thanks to a combination of steady seam bowling and injudicious strokeplay, which saw batsmen hanging their bats out to deliveries they should have left alone. Connor Williams won the toss and chose to bat, a decision which suited Gautam Gambhir, who said Delhi would have preferred bowling first anyway. His new-ball bowlers showed why.
In his first three overs, Bhandari repeatedly went past the outside edge of Williams' bat, but his first victim of the day was Satyajit Parab, whose poor season continued as he drove at a wide ball and was comfortably caught at point. Williams survived four more overs, before Bhandari decided to switch to round the wicket. It turned out to be a masterstroke. Bringing the ball in with the angle and then seaming it away, he accounted for the left-handed Williams and Rakesh Solanki in successive overs. Williams had no clue to one which pitched on middle and off, and sent off stump cartwheeling, while Solanki was snaffled by Shikhar Dhawan at third slip. Within the first hour, Baroda had slumped to 35 for 3.
Azharuddin Bilakhia and Shatrunjay Gaekwad, the son of former India player Anshuman, briefly stemmed the rot with a 27-run stand, but Narwal, who shared the new ball with Bhandari in his debut for Delhi, then got into the act. Bilakhia had got away with a few airy wafts outside off, but his luck ran out when a loose shot gave Dhawan his second catch in the slips.
The best passage of play for the batsmen came soon after, as Gaekwad and Pinal Shah, Baroda's top-scorer with 46, put together 48, the highest stand of the innings. Both batsmen started uncertainly, playing and missing outside off, but gradually grew in confidence and played some fine strokes through the off side and down the ground. The partnership was looking ominous when Narwal struck again, as Gaekwad chased a wide one and was smartly held by Puneet Bisht, the wicketkeeper.
Shah continued to resist, driving powerfully whenever the bowlers pitched it up. With Yusuf Pathan offering fine support, the pair added 42, but both fell at the same score within four balls of each other: Shah was consumed in the slips, while Pathan miscued a drive to mid-on. Baroda never recovered from the double blow, though a last-wicket stand of 22 ensured they got to within a run of 200.
Delhi would have been satisfied with their work in the field, but they were in for a rude shock themselves, as Gambhir, Aakash Chopra and Dhawan all fell in the first five overs. Sumit Singh and debutant Salim Veragi, Baroda's new-ball bowlers, pitched it up, allowed the ball to swing, and reaped the rewards: Gambhir moved too far across and was trapped plumb in front by Singh, Chopra tickled one from Veragi to the 'keeper, and Dhawan edged to Williams in the slips soon after surviving a close lbw shout. Delhi had been reduced to 5 for 3, and it would have been even worse if Rajesh Pawar had thrown the ball to the wicketkeeper instead of taking aim at the stumps when Manhas was way short of the crease.
Both Manhas and Jain survived close calls and were beaten outside off, but their footwork and judgment improved as their innings progressed. Their 44-run partnership ensured Delhi suffered no further alarms in the last hour, but with the deficit still 150, Delhi's batsmen have plenty to do on the second day.
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