Delhi 271 and 272 for 3 (Gambhir 132) beat Baroda 199 and 342 (Yusuf 113) by seven wickets
Scorecard



Gautam Gambhir played a captain's knock to lead Delhi to the Ranji Trophy final. © Cricinfo Ltd
 

Gautam Gambhir hit a furious ton to help Delhi defeat Baroda and enter the final of the Ranji Trophy Super league. His 136-run opening stand with Shikar Dhawan allowed Delhi to overcome the 271-run target without breaking a sweat.

The victory came with an unexpected ease. The target could have proved tricky, especially considering they had lost the services of their regular opener Aakash Chopra - on drips in the hospital after a sudden bout of nausea and giddiness - but Gambhir and Dhawan attacked from the start to put Delhi on a cruise mode.

Baroda had earlier folded up after stretching their lead from the overnight 209 to 270. Yusuf Pathan fell after reaching his ton. But with his aggressive knock he had shown the pitch held no demons and probably inspired the Delhi openers to adopt a similar path.

Gambhir, in particular, pounced at every opportunity to attack. He had missed out on the first innings, trapped by a length delivery from Sumit Singh that curved in. He took care not to repeat the mistake here. The front leg was not pressed too far across and he negotiated the new ball easily. He started off with a couple of trademark crisp off drives before easing into his cuts and pulls when the bowlers erred on length.

Known for his penchant to take the attack to the spinners, he never let Rajesh Pawar settle into any kind of rhythm. It was textbook batting on how to attack spin. Go down the track to play a few shots, force the bowler to alter the length before unfurling cut shots. Lofted drives crashed into the straight boundary, cuts pinged the point boundary and he threw in a couple of inside-out drives over cover in the mix.

Gambhir also attacked the offspinner Yusuf with gusto. He drove him repeatedly before upping the ante with improvised strokes. Twice in succession he backed away, made his own room and cut deliveries outside leg stump to point boundary. The third ball, of the same over, also disappeared to long-on before he fell to a sharp diving take from Connor Williams at midwicket.

Williams gave him a non-verbal but animated send-off and Gambhir stalled briefly before walking off to a generous reception from his team-mates. Gambhir had been involved in some heated exchanges throughout the day with the fielders, in particular Azharuddin Bilakhia and Pawar and his celebration upon reaching his hundred - he reversed the bat, pointed the handle to the dressing room, as his wont, and gave a furious wind-up of the wrist - had shown how badly he wanted to make his presence felt.

Aditya Jain, with an unbeaten 39, ensured that Delhi would just suffer one more casualty before wrapping up the victory. Chopra had returned from the hospital by the end to see his team cross the line.

Delhi would now take on Uttar Pradesh in the final, starting from January 16 in Mumbai.