Nitish Rana batted with flourish and panache to lay the foundation for Delhi’s fifth victory at the Vijay Hazare Trophy – a 75-run annihilation of Madhya Pradesh in a Group ‘B’ tie at the Air Force Complex here. Rana’s attacking century (107, 98b, 10X4, 3X6) took Delhi to a commanding 284 for eight in its 50 overs – the highest total at the track in the tourney – and consolidated the top spot in the points table (22 points).
Due to its good net run-rate (+1.473), it now lies second among the teams from Groups A and B. The top five teams from the two groups together will move into the playoffs.
Batting first, Delhi toyed with the seamers from the start and contrary to the usual practice here, continued in the same vein for the entire innings. Gautam Gambhir and Unmukt Chand looked fluent in the middle, and the cuts and drives were disdainful. Eventually, both were dismissed between the 14 and 17 overs, setting the stage for the middle-order batsmen to consolidate in the middle overs.
Dhruv Shorey and Rana kept hitting boundaries, compiling a partnership of 147 runs. It wasn’t all smooth sailing; besides a couple of half-shouts for lbw, there was a claimed dismissal in the 29th over that turned into a controversy. Rana had attempted a sweep and was caught by the fine-leg fielder, and after the on-field umpire gave it out, Rana had a chat with him after which the validity of the dismissal was referred to the third umpire.
The eventual not-out verdict understandably incensed the Madhya Pradesh team, and in particular, the captain Naman Ojha, who argued with the umpires for a few minutes.
The two batsmen in the middle remained unseparated until the 44 over. Dhruv fell to spinner Anshul Tripathi in the pursuit of runs – caught by the long-off fielder. Shorey looked to smash the bowlers around as well. His reverse-sweeps, reverse-hits and a six through point were nonchalant, confident strokes and the runs came in a torrent even as wickets fell towards the business end.
MP, too, smashed the opposition bowlers around at the start, but its energy fizzled out with the fall of wickets. Seamer Lalit Yadav pegged the team back with three top-order wickets. Naman, Rajat Patidar, Rameez Khan and Yash Dubey had all been dismissed by the 12 over, and when the middle-order grafted pragmatically to build some confidence, Rana came back to haunt MP, having the set Anshul Tripathi clean bowled.
The slow recovery looked impressive as Venkatesh Iyer (53, 71b, 2X4, 1X6) and Saransh Jain (47, 53b, 4X4, 1X6) put on a stand of 76, but any hopes of a stunning win was cut short when medium-pacer Subodh Bhati had the set Saransh out bowled in the 40 over, inducing a collapse.
Lalit helped clean the tail, and finished with a five-for – the first of his List A career.