Delhi 419 (Rana 174, Pant 99, Bachhav 4-87) beat Maharashtra 99 (Ishant 3-14) and 259 (Tripathi 106, Saini 4-57, Mishra 4-90) by an innings and 61 runs
Second-innings centuries in Ranji Trophy - especially in four-day matches where first-innings leads are rarely overturned - usually don't count for much. Not when your team has been bowled out for 99 in the first innings and you have almost two days to bat out for the reward of one point and the pleasure of denying your opponents full points from that match. Pressure, as you might imagine, is usually off when you are batting the second time around because the stakes for you are not high.
So a second-innings hundred has to be suitably special for it to be given credit. Rahul Tripathi's blitz at Airforce Sports Complex in Palam in Delhi was one such even though it couldn't prevent the dominant Delhi side from claiming an innings win and full seven points against Maharashtra. The win ensured Delhi's progress to the next round with one match to spare. But Tripathi, who shot to fame with his T20 exploits with Rising Pune Supergiant, came in at 56 for 3 and attacked every Delhi bowler to reach his fifty off 28 balls and the hundred off 67.
The innings bothered Delhi, make no mistake about it. After Tripathi had bounded off to 82 off 44 balls, they were forced to ask their main spinner - left-arm bowler Vikas Mishra - to go over the wicket and keep bowling well outside leg. The other end was given to Lalit Yadav to bowl flat darts from. By the time Tripathi was done, lbw while trying to sweep Mishra, he had bothered Delhi enough for their captain Ishant Sharma to give him a send-off. Tripathi kept looking back with displeasure as he walked back to applause from the Maharashtra camp.
The applause six runs earlier - when he had reached his hundred - came belatedly as the scoreboard at the ground showed him to be one run short. Tripathi skipped down the track to drive Lalit wide of long-on for a couple that everyone believed took him to 99. Ishant then called the field up. Lalit didn't bowl a loose ball in the rest of the over. When the fielders were changing ends, the official scorers asked those in charge of the big scoreboard to correct the score. The Maharashtra dressing room noticed the change, began to applaud, and in this anti-climactic fashion did Tripathi realise he had brought up his fifth first-class hundred.
Such was the frenetic pace of Tripathi's innings that the scorers could be forgiven for missing a run here or there. He came out in a mood to attack, which was the only way really on the third day with the pitch offering uneven bounce. Maharashtra couldn't have hoped to bat five sessions out. Tripathi hit four sixes, two of them straight into the sight screens and two with the slog sweep. His 12 fours were crisply hit, mostly on the up and square through cover and point.
Tripathi admitted that having the choice of approach taken out of his hand helped him. He made an interesting observation that when you are attacking and looking to score runs, you pick the length sooner than when you have been forced to defend. As it turned out Tripathi took every bowler on and - as he felt - made them think about the runs too as opposed to just wickets. The fielders went out of his face, which allowed him to work easy singles as he showed in the latter half of his innings.
One of the bowlers Tripathi hit for a six, Navdeep Saini, continued his impressive match as he came back to take three quick wickets, which ensured Delhi didn't have to come back on the fourth day. Four says short of turning 25, Saini is known for running in all day; his evening spells are said to be as intense as the ones in the morning. He credited this endurance to his stints with the A team - he played against South Africa A and New Zealand A this year. He said he now understood his body and the training it needs, and the gameplans required to take wickets, better.
Saini said he knew they would have to stay patient as Maharashtra were not likely to roll over twice in a row. He bowled 18 overs in the day, was the second-most economical bowler, behind Ishant, keeping the batsmen honest. He was rewarded with three late wickets to go with opener Ruturaj Gaikwad's in his second spell. He only earned himself an extra day's rest before he might be asked to carry the Delhi bowling next Saturday, possibly without the services of Ishant, whose presence he said made a big difference.