Ranji Trophy 2019-2020: Nitish Rana, Delhi openers script dramatic win

Nitish Rana smashed an unbeaten 105 off only 68 balls as Delhi defeated defending champion Vidarbha by six wickets in a Ranji Trophy fixture.

Nitish Rana on way to his century against Vidarbha in New Delhi on Wednesday.   -  R.V. Moorthy

Nitish Rana paced Delhi’s run-chase to perfection by getting the winning run with a six that helped him complete a well-deserved century and left two-time defending champion Vidarbha shattered in their Ranji Trophy match here on Wednesday.

Set a target of 347, Delhi resumed its chase at 10 without loss and finished the job in 71 overs of play on the final day. This was Vidarbha’s first defeat since 2016 and surely hurt Faiz Fazal and his men following a sporting declaration on Tuesday evening.

The flourish at the end was particularly impressive from the two Delhi batsmen - Rana and Anuj Rawat. In what turned out to be the penultimate over of the match, bowled by Umesh Yadav, Rawat scored 4,4,0,0,0,4. Rana finished the job in the following over by off-spinner Akshay Wakhare, with the progression reading 4,4,4,1,1,6.

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Rana rated his 68-ball unbeaten 105, dotted with eight boundaries and seven sixes, as “the best knock” of his First-Class career. This racy knock proved the game-changer for Delhi after the foundation of a memorable chase was laid by openers Hiten Dalal (82, 146b, 14x4) and Kunal Chandela (75, 146b, 9x4).

The opening-stand of 163 came in the 49th over but both half-centurions departed in successive overs to give Vidarbha some hope of foiling Delhi’s designs. However, the combination of Rana and skipper Dhruv Shorey continued the good work briskly and added 118 runs in just 14.5 overs to keep the pressure on Vidarbha. This was despite Vidarbha opting for blatant negative tactics - bowling with seven fielders packed on the off-side, fielders taking their time to move into position, pace bowlers missing their stride on their run-up, more often than usual.

As Rana said later, “Any team would have opted for these tactics but the medium-pacers repeatedly missing their stride at least twice in an over, was too frustrating.”

On the run-chase, Rana said, “As I told our coach (K. P. Bhaskar) last evening, if we get a start of 70-80 runs, I would try and finish the match. I knew how the pitch had eased and today, the sunshine was brighter than any of the first three days. The pitch was just right to play strokes. I am confident of my six-hitting skills against the spinners. I went with my gut-feeling.”

Briefly, Delhi dressing room experienced some tense moments when Shorey and Lalit Yadav departed in the space of the 17 runs and 21 deliveries. Even new-man Anuj Rawat did struggle to rotate the strike.

But on resumption following drinks-interval, Rawat made amends with three glorious boundaries off Umesh Yadav before Rana reached his century with Delhi’s match-winning six.

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