Sohal century props Punjab
On a typically testing day, Delhi's perseverance and a special century by Punjab's Sunny Sohal made sure neither team ended with a clear advantage, though a resolute sixth-wicket partnership put Punjab in a position to push for a big first-innings score. Yuvraj Singh endured a six-ball duck, while Ashish Nehra made a satisfactory return to first-class cricket having missed the whole of the previous season.
Delhi began their title defence by putting Punjab in on a Roshanara track that usually provides assistance to the pace bowlers in the first hour of the match. Nehra used that assistance, getting the ball to consistently move away from the left-hand opening batsmen. However, luck deserted him for the first seven overs, during which he kept beating both Karan Goel and Ravi Inder Singh. In the third over of the day, Nehra made Ravi Inder play and miss at three successive deliveries. He finally got his breakthrough in the seventh over of the innings, when Ravi Inder played all over a straight and fast delivery.
Delhi's pace bowlers were unfortunate throughout the day: as many as eight catches fell short of the slip cordon. Nehra looked fit enough to bowl 21 overs in the day and, on another day, he could have bowled worse and yet ended with better figures than 21-7-66-1.
The day, though, belonged to Sohal, the diminutive 20-year-old right-hand batsman in his second first-class season. He came in ahead of Yuvraj and took complete control of the game. He cover-drove and square-drove with ease, and also dominated the strike. When he came in to bat, in the eighth over, Goel had already scored 15 off 23 balls. By the end of the 25th over, Sohal had reached 35 off 63, while Goel had 32 off 69.
An inspirational burst from Pradeep Sangwan pulled Delhi back into the game just before lunch. Sangwan first bowled an accurate short one straight at Goel's face, who fended it to Virat Kohli at third slip. Then came the most anticipated phase of play for the match: Yuvraj's batting, which lasted only one over. Yuvraj got a bouncer first up from Sangwan, which he easily ducked under. They were followed up by five accurate deliveries, the last of which he played at with hard hands, and guided to Shikhar Dhawan at first slip.
Post lunch, Sohal took control of the game again. He was aggressive, not missing out on any scoring opportunities. He put together two important partnerships with Pankaj Dharmani and Uday Kaul for the fourth and fifth wickets. Of the 47 scored for the fifth wicket, Sohal made 29, while he contributed 33 out of 37 for the fifth wicket. There were no nerves when he neared his first first-class hundred. He moved from 72 to 100 in 28 balls, and reached his century with an aerial flick towards mid-on, where Amit Bhandari's misfield allowed the ball to go to the boundary.
During that phase, Chetanya Nanda kept one end tied up, and Nehra bowled an inspired spell. He went round the wicket to trouble Dharmani with the ones that held their line. During that spell, Nehra bowled five overs and stayed wicketless. Nanda's accuracy worked, though, when Dharmani went to cut him, but played it on to his stumps for want of room. Soon after reaching his century, Sohal stepped out to Nanda in the fifth over after tea, but couldn't connect properly. When he got out, he had scored 110 out of Punjab's 176.
After Sohal's dismissal, it seemed Delhi might fight back, but Kaul and Ankur Kakkar, both left-hand batsmen, batted patiently, while Delhi looked a bit flat. Flamboyance was replaced by solidity, as both batsmen played safely to stumps. Although the two added only 61 in 20.1 overs, Kakkar displayed some aggression by pulling Sangwan for a four and a six in the penultimate over of the day.
Ravi Inder Singh b Nehra 2 (17 for 1)
Plays across the line to a Nehra delivery and is beaten for pace. The stumps are splayed
Karan Goel c Kohli b Sangwan 37 (80 for2)
Gets a good bouncer from Sangwan, and fends it to Kohli at third slip
Yuvraj Singh c Dhawan b Sangwan 0 (92 for 3)
Yuvraj half-steers and half-fends a straight delivery from Sangwan to Dhawan at first slip
Pankaj Dharmani b Nanda 16 (139 for4)
Looks to open the face, but there isn't enough room, and plays it on
Sunny Sohal c Sangwan b Nanda 110 (176 for 5)
Steps out and looks to hit Nanda over the infield, but gets too close to the pitch of the ball and holes out to Sangwan at mid-on
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo