Dhruv Shorey's career has been full of paradoxes. When he plays first-class cricket, his attractive strokeplay makes you think he will be better suited for 50-over cricket. When he bats in one-dayers, you wonder he's probably going a tad slower. A List-A strike rate of 73 backs that observation.
Shorey is supposed to be a mainstay of Delhi's batting. He has a more than decent first-class record but averages in the low 30s in List A cricket with just one hundred from 42 games.
At 27, Shorey's career is yet to fully take off. Still he finds himself leading Delhi in the 2019-20 Vijay Hazare Trophy, and on Sunday, in the middle with his side at 17 for 2 against a rampant Gujarat in the second quarterfinal. What does Shorey do? He dodges almost all the paradoxes to produce a near masterclass.
Chintan Gaja had just dismissed Delhi openers Shikhar Dhawan and Anuj Rawat, while Roosh Kalaria had kept things quiet from the other end. But Shorey not only stabilised the innings - along with Nitish Rana - but also accelerated towards the end to finish with a 109-ball 91.
But just like his career, this innings too proved to be a paradox. He played a captain's knock but failed to take his side to a winning total. In the end, Delhi were all out for 223 in 49 overs, and Gujarat chased the VJD-adjusted target of 225 in 37.5 overs with six wickets in hand.
Earlier, Dhawan's lean run with the bat continued. After failing to open his account in the first six balls, he skipped down the track to Gaja only to chip it towards short extra cover. But the fielder there spilled the straightforward chance, the sort of thing you hope for as an out-of-form batsman. But Dhawan failed to take any advantage of that. He sashayed down once again on the next ball, only to splice it towards mid-off this time. Piyush Chawla made no mistake. Four overs later, Rawat tried to do a similar thing and was taken at cover.
With the side in trouble, Shorey and Rana decided to bid their time on a two-paced wicket. The team fifty came in the 14th over, and it took Delhi another 14 overs to reach the hundred-run mark.
But Shorey batted with a calm demeanour, hitting mostly along the ground and reached his fifty in 67 balls. At the other end, Rana smashed two fours in one Arzan Nagwaswalla over but mostly found it difficult to get the ball off the square. Despite Rana's struggles, the two had added 90 for the third wicket in 129 balls.
It was once again Gaja who provided his side with a wicket. In an attempt to provide momentum to the innings, Rana ended up flicking one straight to short fine leg and was dismissed for 33 off 61.
Shorey had moved to 77 off 98 without much fuss before he decided to take on Axar Patel. Using his feet, he lofted the left-arm spinner over wide long-off. Three balls later, when Axar pitched on short, Shorey got down on one knee to sweep-pull it for another six over fine leg. Suddenly, he was on 90 off 102 balls.
With Himmat Singh for company, Shorey took Delhi to 150 in the 37th over, with the last 50 runs coming at almost run a ball. The platform was set, the hundred was there for the taking but then the paradox struck again. Or maybe it was just the nervous nineties. After all, last season he was dismissed thrice in the 90s in first-class cricket.
Shorey had looked to play in the 'V' until then. But in the 38th over, while trying to steer Nagwaswalla towards third man, he ended up edging one to Parthiv Patel. Another unfulfilled promise as Shorey admitted after the match.
"I should have stayed there till the end," Shorey said. "Initially the wicket was doing a bit but after I got settled, it appeared a very good wicket to bat on. But the way I got out, or Nitish got out, it was a little disappointing. Maybe on this wicket, we could have gone on till the 45th over to pace our innings as anything around 270-280 or 300 would have been a good total."
A brief shower in the 40th over further disrupted Delhi's momentum and when the teams returned - with the match reduced to 49 overs per side - the lower-order batsmen couldn't do much against Chawla's guile.
Parthiv and Priyank Panchal then got Gujarat off to a quick start, with the former happily feasting on the buffet of short balls served by the Delhi seamers. Delhi's fielding didn't help their cause either. Panchal was on 28 when Rana dropped a sitter at mid-on, while wicketkeeper Rawat failed to grab an inside edge off Parthiv with the batsman on 57.
The two added 150 in just 23.1 overs to make light work of the chase. Though Delhi struck back, by then there were not enough runs left to make a match out of it. Only if Shorey had stayed in there for a little longer, but that's how his career has been so far.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo