Delhi 46 for 2 trail Punjab 74 (Nehra 4-31, Awana 3-20) by 28 runs
Delhi captain Gautam Gambhir and his players are slowly turning Roshanara Club ground into a fortress. They bundled out Punjab for a lowly 74, setting up the possibility of another outright win that could enable them to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Gambhir has been pretty bullish about his intentions of extracting the maximum from Delhi's home matches and didn't mind taking on the Delhi & District Cricket Association administration recently. His bowlers led by veteran Ashish Nehra took it upon themselves to ensure their captain was vindicated as Punjab were reduced to 35 for 9, before Manpreet Gony's cameo of 29 helped them get past 70.
At stumps, Delhi were 46 for 2 with Unmukt Chand batting on 21 after Gambhir and Vaibhav Rawal were dismissed cheaply. Only 42.4 overs were possible on the day due to bad light that led to three stoppages after the match started 90 minutes late.
Nehra, who took 4 for 31, wreaked havoc on a pitch that was less green than the one against Vidarbha in the previous round but overcast conditions and strong wind made it improbable for the Punjab batsmen to put up any sort of resistance.
Vidarbha and Punjab's back-to-back performances (88 and 74) in slightly bowler-friendly conditions spoke about the inadequacies of technique while facing swinging deliveries at high speed. Most of the batsmen were dismissed hanging their bats at moving balls that were taken in the slip cordon or by the wicketkeeper.
Sumit Narwal started it in the third over when Jiwanjot Singh fished at an away-going delivery and edged to Rawal at third slip. Nehra then got into the act with a lovely outswinger to the left-hander Uday Kaul, who nicked to Rahul Yadav behind the stumps.
Surprisingly, it was seamer Sandeep Sharma who was sent in at No 4 ahead of Yuvraj Singh. The move defied logic. How a tailender could survive on a helpful pitch where the top order was finding it difficult was unfathomable. Sandeep's promotion only showed Punjab's negative mindset.
Sandeep was there for 24 minutes, defending 13 deliveries to make 1. Gambhir, sensing that there was no footwork, introduced Rajat Bhatia in place of Nehra to draw Sandeep forward. The result was a simple catch to Parvinder Awana at mid-on.
Yuvraj arrived and was gone in three balls, trying a forward-defensive prod off Bhatia and adjudged leg-before. Yuvraj was very unhappy as he stood his ground and then indicated to the umpire that the ball had hit the bat first.
At 18 for 4, Manan Vohra and Mandeep Singh tried to do some repair work and took the score to 32 before bad light stopped play. Once play resumed, Vohra played an irresponsible pull off an Awana delivery that rose up from back of a length. The skier was taken by the bowler himself.
It became 32 for six when keeper Yadav pulled off an absolute stunner, diving in front of first slip to take a one-handed catch to remove Gurkeerat Singh for a duck off Awana.
Before one realized, 32 for 6 became 35 for 9 as Nehra got three more. Mandeep played on to a delivery that came in after pitching while Jaskaran Singh missed the line to be bowled. Gitansh Khera was nicely set up by Nehra, who first bowled a sharp bouncer that pegged the batsman back and then bowled a full outswinger that was nicked to Yadav.
Gony threw his bat around to take Punjab to 74 but the damage had been done. "There is no excuse for scoring 74 runs even though we knew that conditions are difficult for batting," Punjab coach Bhupinder Singh snr said. "This is a result-oriented track where we should have batted better. I believe there is still hope for a comeback and I am hoping that my bowlers use the morning conditions well tomorrow."