Ranji Trophy: Delhi in command after Gambhir, Rana tons

Gautam Gambhir and Nitish Rana toyed with the Assam bowling, adding 207 runs for the third wicket as Delhi took first innings lead on Day Two of its Group A Ranji Trophy season opener on Saturday. With Gambhir unbeaten on 136 at stumps with Pulkit Narang for company, the host scored 269-4, a lead of 11 runs so far.

Gautam Gambhir after reaching his century in New Delhi on Saturday.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Gautam Gambhir and Nitish Rana toyed with the Assam bowling, adding 207 runs for the third wicket as Delhi took first innings lead on Day Two of its Group A Ranji Trophy season opener on Saturday. With Gambhir unbeaten on 136 at stumps with Pulkit Narang for company, the host scored 269-4, a lead of 11 runs so far.

Rana (110) and Milind Kumar fell in quick succession in the final half hour as Assam speedster Abu Nechim Ahmed finally reaped reward for a day that was largely dominated by the Delhi batsmen on a pliant pitch. Delhi lost opener Unmukt Chand and Dhruv Shorey early, both tentative in their short stay at the crease. It was a different script once Rana walked out.

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Gambhir, who began with a boundary guided to the ropes behind the wicketkeeper off Krishna Das, had been freely striking the ball, scoring boundaries at will at the other end, and in Rana he found the perfect partner to grind the Assam bowling. The duo kept rotating the strike, sent the ball racing to the ropes frequently and found the gaps with ease.

While Gambhir favoured the off-side – almost 50 percent of his runs came between point and extra-cover – Rana had a more neutral graph. Gambhir's half century came in just 72 balls with two consecutive fours, through cover and extra-cover, just before lunch while the century came two overs after tea in a similar fashion – except that this time the two consecutive fours were hit over long-on.

At the other end, Rana made merry, often stepping out for his shots and hitting straight down the ground. Together, the two saw through 55.2 overs before Rana finally fell, edging one from Ahmed that rose slightly and had more pace than anticipated. He had completed his third First-Class century by then, studded with 18 fours. A slow, low pitch with the ball hardly rising above the knee or coming quickly to the batsmen only made it worse for the Assam bowlers.

Earlier, Assam added 34 runs to its overnight score to wrap up for 258. Top-scorer Sarupam Purkayastha's fighting innings came to a soft end, caught at mid-on off Ishant Sharma, who completed his 12th First-Class five-wicket haul.

Brief scores: Assam first innings 258 (Sarupam Purkayastha 66, Gokul Sharma 51; Ishant Sharma 5-38, Navdeep Saini 2-53); Delhi first innings 269-4 (Gautam Gambhir batting 136, Nitish Rana 110; Abu Nechim Ahmed 3-39).