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Saif, Nath score fifties on seesawing first day

Uttar Pradesh 270 for 8 (Saif 83, Nath 59, Upendra 48*, Ishant 2-27, Saini 2-37) v Delhi
Scorecard

Ishant Sharma's decision to bowl first and the subsequent early dismissals of Uttar Pradesh's openers in the first session belied a flat pitch at the Palam Ground, where a late surge from Delhi was neutralised by a lower-order counterattack that saw UP finish on 270 for 8. Suresh Raina made 10.

Twenty-one-year-old No. 3 Mohammad Saif, playing in his first match of the season, walked in in the eighth over after Navdeep Saini had dismissed Almas Shaukat. The left-hander was UP's most assured batsman, using a solid defence to first see off the new ball and then survive a short-ball barrage from Ishant and Kulwant Khejroliya; once set, he scored mostly off boundaries - 14 fours and a six, or 62 of his 82 runs - without being decidedly aggressive.

In the company of Akshdeep Nath (59), who retained the No. 4 spot ahead of Raina, Saif steered a large part of the first session and almost all of the second, before a recurring forearm cramp forced him to retire hurt shortly after the pair had brought up their century stand. Saif returned later in the day with UP five down and started cashing in on the straight boundary. He couldn't see the day through, however, running himself out as he skipped to avoid a throw from cover.

Nath was the more aggressive partner in the third-wicket stand, particularly against the spinners, routinely stepping down the track to clear mid-on and mid-off. His methods offered Delhi two chances. In the first session, he nicked an attempted cut against Ishant, but first slip couldn't hold on. He was then put down at mid-on by Ishant himself - an aerial flick was met by a lazy one-handed grab.

The second reprieve wouldn't cost too much. Ishant straightened one in the corridor in the next over, inducing an edge from Nath that carried to Rishabh Pant.

Raina was a picture of focus as he spent time in the nets during the lunch break, but the fluency deserted him in the middle. In his 24-ball stay, Raina hit two fours - one courtesy a misfield at mid-off, one a sliced square drive with minimal footwork. The rest of his stay was anxious and he eventually fell to one that kept low as he pushed on the back foot against Milind Kumar's offspin.

Delhi seemed to be making up for their poor over rate - they bowled only 84 overs despite the half-hour extension - by cutting through UP's lower order quickly after Raina had fallen. But wicketkeeper-batsman Upendra Yadav (48*) hauled back the momentum as he dominated eighth- and ninth-wicket stands worth a combined 53 to take UP to stumps.