Ranji Trophy: Narwal guides Delhi to a victory

Sumit Narwal held his nerve with the bat to guide his team to a thrilling two wicket win over Rajasthan.

Sumit Narwal scored a feisty 27 to help his team get a win over Rajasthan.   -  Special Arrangement

Sumit Narwal has two hundreds and nine fifties in First Class cricket. On Thursday, he scored an unbeaten 27 that he would rate at par with those knocks.

It was his gritty innings that steered Delhi to a much-needed two-wicket win against Rajasthan at the Wayanad Cricket Stadium. The team from the national capital was chasing a modest target of 153, but the match was delicately balanced when he arrived at the wicket, with the score reading 100 for six.

The 34-year-old relied on his experience, held his nerves and batted judiciously to take his side home in a tense finish. It was his seventh wicket stand of 37 with Nitish Rana (31) that more or less ensured the victory for Delhi.

That partnership was broken by a brilliant direct hit from substitute Ankit Lamba. There was more drama when Delhi lost its eighth wicket, with Manan Sharma giving a return catch to medium-pacer Deepak Chahar.

But in the very next over, Narwal settled the issue, slashing part-timer Puneet Yadav over the slip for a four. His innings had begun in dangerous fashion though, with edges, to wicket-keeper Chetan Bist, off the first two balls he faced from the hard-working left-arm seamer Tanvir-ul-Haq.

Narwal won’t forget this match in a hurry. His 34 off 25 balls, coming in at No.9, in the first innings had helped his team take a crucial lead of 69, not to mention the two wickets he took in Rajasthan’s first innings.

If Narwal gave the finishing touches to the chase, the foundation stone was laid by Shikhar Dhawan, who was one of the overnight batsmen. Delhi had resumed at 51 for three and lost its night-watchman Vikas Tokas, who was bowled by seamer Pankaj Singh.

Then Dhawan, after scoring 49, was caught behind off Haq, who also removed Milind Kumar, trapping him in front. In came Narwal and played a really mature knock.

“Yes, it was a pretty tense finish, but I knew it would be close,” said Delhi coach K.P. Bhaskar. “Anything more than 125 was going to be difficult in the fourth innings, as Rajasthan has an excellent seam attack.”

He added he was happy and relieved to win what was a must-win game. Delhi has maintained his chances of qualification by scoring six points from this match.

It has now 18 points six games, three behind the third-placed Maharashtra. Karnataka (30) and Jharkhand (26) are much better placed in the race for three qualifiers’ slots for the knock-out stage.

Rajasthan remains on 12 points, after seven games. “Our batsmen let us down,” said the team’s coach Amit Asawa. “Another 30 or 40 runs, we would have won.”