At 142 for six, Delhi was in serious trouble of being forced to follow, trailing Tamil Nadu by 290 runs, with the home team sniffing a chance of pushing for an outright victory, to end its disappointing campaign on a high, on the third day at the M.A. Chidambaram stadium here on Wednesday.
Instead, Delhi’s U-23 captain Jonty Sidhu, playing in only his fourth Ranji Trophy game, produced a fine unbeaten ton (104*, 235, 11x4, 3x6) to bail his side out as the visitor ended the day on 268 for six with only 15 more needed to make TN bat again.
The 21-year-old was ably supported by Lalit Yadav at the other end, who was unbeaten on 65 (143b, 10x4, 1x6), with the duo adding 126 runs so far for the seventh wicket.
Resuming on 35 for two, Delhi lost two quick wickets with left-arm spinner Mohan Prasath prising out Dhruv Shorey caught and bowled while skipper Nitish Rana hit M. Mohammed straight to B. Indrajith at mid-off.
Walking in at 49 for four, Sidhu struck a crucial 78-run stand with Himmat Singh for the fourth wicket to take Delhi to lunch without any further setback.
The young left-hander started off positively with three beautiful shots through the off-side arc, a cover drive, a straight drive and a backfoot punch to get going.
A feature of Siddhu’s innings was he did not allow the spinners to settle and was brave enough to step down to the spinners early in his innings — picking two sixes off Sai Kishore and Aparajith as he moved to 33 in quick time.
Post lunch, even as TN struck back with two quick wickets after removing Himmat and Anuj Rawat, Sidhu shifted gears between caution and aggression with ease, as he got to his half-century with a beautiful inside out cover drive off Aparajith. One more six off Aprajith and three more boundaries, the last one, a forceful punch off the backfoot through midwicket helped Sidhu move from 72 to his maiden first-class century in style.
The Delhi under-23 skipper who made an impressive 85 in the last match against Bengal said, “this was a crucial innings for me and has a come at a time when the team needed it the most. That’s why this hundred will always be special.”
TN left-arm spinner Sai Kishore admitted the spinners did not bowl well to Sidhu and Yadav saying, “we did not find the right pace to bowl today and after bowling 100 overs, we can't be saying we couldn't find the right speed. When we did get it right in a few spells, we got wickets but I felt we could have been a bit slower.”
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