Not since the days of Mohinder Amarnath, Bishan Singh Bedi, and Kirti Azad had Delhi defeated Mumbai in a first-class match. Himmat Singh’s unheralded team ended the win-drought on Friday at the Ferozeshah Kotla, its top-order batters adopting an aggressive approach to chase down the target of 95 runs before lunch and win by eight wickets. The win was just its second against the 41-time champion; it had either lost or drawn the 20 matches played between the two sides since 1979-80.
After breaking the last-wicket partnership quickly – No. 11 Royston Dias was dismissed lbw by off-spinner Hrithik Shokeen in the second over of the day – Delhi went on a rampage. Anuj Rawat took the attack to Mohit Avasthi in the second over of the run chase, smashing 14 runs off the first three deliveries he faced before top-edging one and departing. He was off the mark with a six, skipping down the track to smash the ball over the long-on region, and followed it up with two fours, both off belligerent drives. Delhi had already trotted to 26 by the end of the over as Shokeen edged one and the ball took the shoulder of the bat and flew over the slips for four more.
Shokeen, who had played aggressively in the first innings, wasn’t prepared to take his time either, signalling his intent by playing a cover drive for four in the next over.
Spin was introduced as early as the sixth over, with Shams Mulani brought on to bowl. But the batters – opener Vaibhav Sharma and Shokeen – went after him, especially in the left-arm spinner’s last three overs. With 31 runs needed, Mulani strangely adopted a negative line, getting his deliveries to land outside the leg stump. If the intention was to quieten the batters, the strategy didn’t work. Shokeen exposed all of his three stumps to make room for himself and tonked the ball over extra cover for four, before paddle-sweeping the ball past the short fine-leg fielder for another. The end was nigh: Shokeen went down the track for a boundary over mid-on in Mulani’s next over, and Vaibhav, who was relatively quiet at the other end, smashed off-spinner Tanush Kotian for six.
Vaibhav was eventually stumped trying to go for another big hit. Nitish Rana, who was making his comeback in this match for Delhi, hit the winning runs, walloping a six off his first delivery.
Notwithstanding the quality of batsmanship, Mumbai’s bowlers may have erred in their lengths. Royston Dias, the left-arm seamer, and Mulani both bowled a little too short to cause any trouble to the batters; it was baffling especially because the only way Mumbai could have made a match of it was by taking early wickets. Pitching the balls fuller would have increased its chances of getting the batters out, just as Divij Mehra had done on day three.
Ajinkya Rahane, the Mumbai captain, didn’t want to dwell on history, and was gracious in defeat. “Delhi played really well, showed intent with bat and ball, really happy for them.”
Brief scores: Mumbai 293 and 170 (Rahane 50, Kotian 50, Mehra 5 for 29) lost to Delhi 369 and 97 for 2 (Vaibhav 36, Shokeen 36) by eight wickets.
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