With its backs to the wall, Delhi is providing its stiffest resistance so far this season. Much of day two of its Ranji Trophy contest against Mumbai at the Arun Jaitley Stadium here was spent establishing a foundation for a first-innings lead. Delhi ended the day on 316/7.
A determined if dour partnership of 195 (343b) between Vaibhav Rawal (114, 195b, 16x4) and Himmat Singh (85, 167b, 7x4, 2x6) pushed Mumbai to the backfoot and needing a lot to do to redeem itself in the second half of the tussle.
Just as on day one, fast bowlers made the ball talk in the first hour of the morning with the new ball. And as expected, Delhi was put under pressure with a few early wickets. But Vaibhav and Himmat just kept blocking and leaving deliveries – and got beaten on occasion – to turn it around by afternoon.
The tired fast bowlers were rested, and they made hay by comfortably milking spinners Shams Mulani and Tanush Kotian, both of whom registered an economy rate of more than three runs per over in main due to the easy singles on offer.
Vaibhav scored more rapidly than his partner in the latter half of their partnership. After his passiveness for much of the day, he entertained the sparse gathering with some nice strokes in the evening. After closing in on a century, he didn’t take much time to reach the landmark, on-driving Mulani for four, pulling pacer Tushar Deshpande for four (the ball landed in front of the diving fielder at deep square leg), and then, two overs later, hitting three fours in a row off the same bowler, all off short deliveries. The boundary that took him to 93 was off a top edge, while the next two strokes for boundaries were pull shots.
Deshpande seemed to have the last laugh when Vaibhav top-edged the ball again and was caught by the wicketkeeper, but it was a no-ball.
Himmat played his shots too. He reached his half-century with a six off Mulani – an inside-out lofted drive – and followed it up with a boundary off another belligerent stroke. Later, when he came down the track to Mulani, he was beaten by the sharp turn, and stumped.
It was reward at last for Mulani, who was toiling away with hardly anything to show for his efforts. Unable to unsettle the two batters with his regular lines – on a good length on off-stump, turning into the right-hander, and away from the left-hander – he adopted a negative line for some time too. Mumbai had to resort to such tactics to try and make something happen.
It was unlike the first session, when Deshpande and Mohit Avasthi were relentless. The in-form Dhruv Shorey played a few strokes, crossed 800 runs for the season, but couldn’t handle an inswinger from Avasthi that had him bowled. Nitish Rana also dazzled for a bit before nicking one behind. Hrithik Shokeen (45, 60b, 9x4) was proving to be the unlikely saviour, showing skill and audacity to stick around, before he, too, departed, trapped by the short ball by Deshpande.
Brief scores: Delhi 316 for 7 (Rawal 114, Himmat 85) leads Mumbai 293 by 23 runs
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