Jaydev Unadkat’s opening spell of six for 20 in seven overs condemned Delhi to the ropes before a gutsy rearguard from Hrithik Shokeen (68 n.o, 90b, 9x4, 3x6) helped it restore an iota of pride on the first day of the Ranji Trophy fourth-round Elite Group B game in Rajkot on Tuesday.
The Delhi bowlers toiled hard on a pitch that seemed to have eased out enough for steady run-scoring as the day progressed. Harvik Desai and Jay Gohil added 64 for the first wicket before the latter was trapped in front by Shokeen at the stroke of tea. Saurashtra leads by 51 at Stumps, with Harvik unbeaten on a fluent 104 and Chirag Jani nearing a fifty. The two have added 120 for the second wicket.
Earlier in the morning, for a while, it was like playing EA Cricket on a computer. Using just the four arrow keys, Unadkat adjusted lengths and razed through the top-order for fun. The Saurashtra captain removed the in-form Dhruv Shorey, Vaibhav Rawal, and Delhi counterpart Yash Dhull off the third, fourth and fifth deliveries of the match to pick the first-ever first-over hat-trick in Ranji Trophy history. The left-arm pacer picked two more to complete his 21st five-for in First-Class cricket in just the third over of the match.
Delhi put in a batting performance so timid it was scarcely believable. At one point, after Unadkat’s hat-trick, a Saurashtra player watching the game from near the boundary manifested dismissals yelling “wicket aaya” before a ball was bowled as four for five became 10 for seven in a matter of overs. The despondency was perhaps only exacerbated by the knowledge that Delhi won the toss and chose to bat in the brisk conditions and on a hard pitch with a tinge of green.
Shokeen was the lone silver lining. The relative ease with which he negotiated a probing Saurashtra attack is more significant in the context of what preceded his arrival at the crease. He survived a couple of close lbw calls, copped a few blows on his hand, and was dropped in the cordon early in his innings en route to a 70-ball 50. He reached the landmark with a six, adding 80 for the ninth wicket with Shivank Vashisth, who made 38. Delhi eventually folded for 133 as Unadkat took his career-best figures of eight for 39 and reaffirmed his red-ball supremacy.
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