Ranji Trophy: Gambhir, Pant impress as Delhi piles on the runs

Delhi gained immensely from Gambhir's experience in the middle as Orissa toiled but ended the second day of the Ranji Trophy match with a 114-run deficit at the I. S. Bindra Stadium here on Friday

Gautam Gambhir and Rishabh Pant were stars for Delhi with the bat.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Gautam Gambhir hit his 39th first-class century and in the process crossed a personal milestone of 14,000 runs. Delhi gained immensely from his experience in the middle as Orissa toiled but ended the second day of the Ranji Trophy match with a 114-run deficit at the I. S. Bindra Stadium here on Friday. Resuming at 43 for no loss, in reply to Orissa’s first innings score of 237, Delhi was 351 for seven.

Gambhir’s excellent show provided Delhi the spine to dominate the day but it was young Rishabh Pant who shone with his outstanding 60 off 56 balls with six fours and two sixes. Gambhir’s 232-ball essay, containing 18 fours, was a flawless performance and ended when he played his first wrong stroke, the ball failing to get the intended elevation. He was caught at mid-off.

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Delhi should have performed better but for Unmukt Chand, Dhruv Shorey and Varun Sood demonstrating poor shot selection before Milind Kumar (39) and Sumit Narwal (35) arrested the middle order slide. Nitish Rana alone fell to a good ball that kicked off a good length with the edge flying to slip.

Pant it was who left the Orissa attack bleeding. He is a batsman to watch for the future, a star in the making. Stocky and confident, he wasted no time at the crease. His easy stance and keen eye gives him the distinct advantage of picking the ball early and decimating the attack with a furious range of shots.

That he loves to play his shots was evident in his desire to play them at the earliest. He can produce a silken drive, with timing of a veteran, and belt it hard with the power that belies his frame. What makes Pant an exciting batsman to watch is the awesome confidence that marks his approach.

“No pressure,” Pant dismissed the suggestion as he reflected on his sweet innings. “I was looking at a good strike rate and wanted to bat long. The intention was to score briskly,” he said as a matter-of-fact. It was a delight to see Pant step out and cart the ball with a disdain that Virender Sehwag had for the bowlers. Orissa struggled to place a field for him because he picked the vacant area and went over the top with ridiculous comfort.

Gambhir, 35, happily applauded his 19-year-old partner as he smashed the ball around. “We backed each other and I was allowed the freedom to play my natural game. Gautam bhai played the anchor and I looked to score quickly. It worked well for us. We are in a good position and another 100 runs tomorrow should put us in a winning position,” said Pant, who was repeatedly ignored by the state junior selectors despite heavy scores. They can’t afford to ignore him now as Pant, with each visit to the middle, pushes his case strongly for a national cap at some point this season.