Delhi takes control over Assam

With a healthy lead of 117, Delhi needs to take seven Assam wickets on the fourth and final day to notch up a win in the first match of the season.

Debutant Delhi wicketkeeper Anuj Rawat, who scored 71, sends one down the ground against Assam.   -  R.V. MOORTHY

Delhi firmed control on its Ranji Trophy Group A season opener here on Sunday with a 177-run first-innings lead against Assam and rattled the opposition more with three quick wickets on Day Three. Assam, 60 for three at stumps, trail Delhi by 117 runs with Navdeep Saini picking up two wickets, after Delhi made 435 in its first essay.

Veteran Gautam Gambhir could only add one run to his overnight score to 136 — his 40th First-Class century — before seeing his middle stump fly in the second over of the day, trying to flick Abu Nechim Ahmed. The Assam speedster was, in fact, the only one to have any impact for his team, picking up seven wickets in the innings conceding just 68 runs in 23.3 overs, all the more creditable given the almost lifeless nature of the pitch.

Overnight batsman Pulkit Narang too fell cheaply but the key to Delhi's massive lead was the 122-run seventh-wicket partnership between debutant Anuj Rawat and Manan Sharma that saw both scoring their half-centuries, contributing almost equally and, barring Ahmed, treating the rest of Assam bowling with disdain.

Wicketkeeper Rawat, 10 days short of his 18th birthday and coming in from the National Under-19 camp, showed enough maturity and strokeplay to nicely fill in for Rishabh Pant in the Delhi dressing room. His shots through the mid-wicket region were clean and his boundaries along the ground fluent. The southpaw even hit the only six of the match so far, a straight hit down the ground off Sarupam Purkayastha thumping into the sightscreen. The 50 came up in 91 balls with a single flicked to square-leg.

At the other end Sharma, surprisingly coming in at number eight, complemented perfectly. More aggressive of the two, Sharma took charge and dealt more in boundaries even as Rawat preferred running the ones and twos to keep the scoreboard moving. A listless Assam bowling made their job easier as Delhi took lunch at 383 for six, a healthy 125-run lead.

Manan was the first to go, slashing to Tarjinder Singh at point off Ahmed, and Rawat followed suit two overs later, nicking an edge to the wicketkeeper with Delhi on 424. It was only a matter of time then before Delhi wrapped up, Ahmed duly completing the job 11 runs later. By then, however, the host had done enough to raise hopes of starting the season with full points.

BRIEF SCORES

Assam 1st innings: 258 in 95 overs.

Delhi 1st innings: 435 in 135.3 overs (Gautam Gambhir 137, Nitish Rana 110, Anuj Rawat 71, Manan Sharma 69; Abu Nechim Ahmed seven for 68, Krishna Das two for 82).

Assam 2nd innings: 60/3 in 31 overs (Sibsankar Roy 28 batting, Navdeep Saini two for 13).