Delhi 337 for 3 (Kohli 154*, Dhawan 148) v Karnataka
Delhi began their quest for a spot in the Ranji Trophy semi-finals on the perfect note, ending the first day of their match against Karnataka at 337 for 2 after choosing to bat. The bulk of the runs came from Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan, who scored centuries and put on 266 runs in 279 minutes on a feather bed of a track.
Egged on by their teammates in the dressing room - from where shouts of lage raho and jaage raho (keep going, stay awake) emanated - they indulged themselves in the middle knowing only they could have got themselves out. It was that kind of a day.
Dhawan opened up first with a drive and a fierce pull off S Dhananjaya in the day's second over, following it up with a crisp on-the-up cover drive and a spanking drive off R Vinay Kumar. Delhi's sole blip came soon after with the fall of Aakash Chopra's wicket. He survived a close lbw shout off Vinay Kumar before he was trapped by Dhananjaya, though the ball appeared to have struck him rather high. Later, Chopra appeared philosophical about it: "You have to expect at least three bad decisions in a domestic season."
Dhawan, meanwhile, was hitting his stride. He was solid in defence, stretched well forward to drive and attacked the short balls. The one blemish was that he mistimed some of his intended on-drives, using more of the arm than the wrists to turn the deliveries.
While Dhawan imposed himself against the seamers early, Kohli was flamboyant against the spinners. Time and again he drove the left-arm spinners, Sunil Joshi and K Appanna, inside-out with the turn through extra cover. Appanna tried to restrict him as early as in the first session, bowling well outside the leg stump - with the wicketkeeper standing wide - from over the wickets. Kohli responded with a brutal sweep and a jump down the track to whip one through midwicket. That was the end of that plan.
They went in to lunch at 123 for 1, with the partnership already over 100, and emerged with their appetite for runs still unsated. Kohli twice cut Joshi to the boundary in the first over after the resumption before Dhawan despatched Dhananjaya four times - two pulls before driving as the bowler corrected the length.
Yere Goud, Karnataka's captain, brought in the debutant Amit Verma, a part-time bowler, to fire in his legbreaks in an attempt to choke the runs. Verma succeeded, giving away just 17 runs in six overs, and Appanna too bowled a restricting trajectory, giving away eight runs from six overs as the run-rate dipped. Kohli and Dhawan nonetheless added 138 runs from 35 overs in the second session.
The last session finally saw some contest between bat and ball as Joshi bowled a teasing line and length. With a short cover in place he flighted the deliveries just short of a driveable length around the off stump. Kohli took up the challenge and drove uppishly just past the fielder but it was Dhawan who fell, lunging and edging to slip. He had made 148 from 211 balls with 24 fours.
Kohli appeared unfazed and brought up his 150 - he had earlier got to his hundred with a six over long-on - with a gorgeous extra-cover drive off the new ball and Mithun Manhas got into stride straightaway with some rousing drives and cuts on his way to an unbeaten 26. Stumps could not come too soon for Karnataka, who stare at another long day in the field tomorrow.