Rest of India build on Munaf's spell
Munaf Patel's sustained spell of hostile fast bowling and a steadily-developing partnership between Rahul Dravid and S Badrinath put Rest of India well ahead of Delhi with three days to go
Munaf Patel's hostile burst swung the momentum back Rest of India's way
Munaf Patel's sustained spell of hostile fast bowling and a steadily-developing partnership between Rahul Dravid and S Badrinath put Rest of India well ahead of Delhi with three days to go. After Munaf mixed nagging reverse-swing with seam movement to help bowl Delhi out for 177, Dravid and Badrinath overcame the early loss of Wasim Jaffer to add an unbroken 55 that gave Rest of India a 174-run lead at stumps.
That Dravid and Badrinath got a chance to bat today was thanks largely to Munaf, who ended a threatening Test reunion of Virender Sehwag and Aakash Chopra, and took two others in the same spell. Having lost Gautam Gambhir to the seventh delivery of the morning, Sehwag and Chopra looked like they would get Delhi to an important first-innings lead. Enter Munaf, who lit up a stirring contest in the first session to swing the momentum his side's way.
Chopra and Sehwag hit some stunning boundaries and hustled for singles with the urgency of commuters forcing their way past the closing doors on a Delhi Metro. Just when Delhi started to steadily push hard on the accelerator, Munaf was called back. In a heated spell - he and Chopra exchanged words after the batsman pointed him back to his mark - Munaf successfully played the card of what Steve Waugh called 'mental disintegration'. Just after an unhappy Sehwag tried to intervene, Munaf struck in his second over to dismiss Chopra.
Forced to fend at one that hit the seam and straightened, Chopra's thick edge was brilliantly picked by Mohammad Kaif at second slip, bending to his right. Uncontrollable, Munaf charged towards the departing batsman and jumped high and punched the air in ecstasy.
Kumble set an attacking field for Virat Kohli - two men standing close on the on side - and Munaf surprised the youngster with a bouncer. Kohli clumsily tried to fend off but feathered an edge to Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
When Delhi most needed their captain to bat out time, Sehwag stepped out and lofted Anil Kumble straight out of the ground for six and pulled four. Flashing a hard cut at an innocuous Kumble legbreak, Sehwag was well held by a diving Dravid at slip. A brilliant dive from Dhoni to pick up Mithun Manhas, and thus giving Munaf his third wicket before lunch, was in keeping with Rest of India's superb fielding. Munaf, Kumble and Harbhajan Singh proceeded to bowl Delhi out for 177 in 57 overs.
In challenging conditions where the bowlers were getting reverse-swing on a pitch with variable bounce, Dravid and Badrinath later dropped anchor. Dravid read the length perfectly, leaned into his strokes quickly and middled the ball confidently. Time and again when the bowlers pitched it short he played with soft hands.
At the other end Badrinath finally provided proof as to why he should stake claim in the Indian middle order. Ishant Sharma fired his 140kph bullets but Badrinath was more certain of the line and length and placed the ball accordingly. When Pradeep Sangwan teased him with an angled delivery, he opened the face of the bat to direct the ball between third slip and gully for his first boundary. When Ishant pitched it on a length and brought it in, Badrinath got into position quickly to steer it to third man for four more. A perfectly-executed cover drive followed next ball. And when Ashish Nehra dropped short, Badrinath moved outside the line to pull strongly.
Dravid and Badrinath's partnership successfully built on Munaf's three-wicket burst before lunch, and put Rest of India firmly on top of proceedings.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo