Arpit Vasavada’s (127 no, 218b, 11x4, 1x6) 10th first-class hundred overshadowed Delhi’s workhorse Hrithik Shokeen’s heroics with the ball as Saurashtra took a massive 370-run lead with four wickets to spare on Day 2 of the Ranji Trophy fourth-round Elite Group B game in Rajkot on Wednesday. The host side was 503 for 6 at stumps.
Vasavada drove and swept the Delhi spinners each time they went full or wide. He reached his century off 168 balls and celebrated by raising his bat aloft as his family watched on. Prerak Mankad was the perfect foil in the 128-run stand, scoring a fluent 64.
Earlier, the weather was sunny, but bitterly cold and windy as Saurashtra set out to build a match-winning lead over Delhi. Apart from the odd stream of SCA officials, the crowd remained very small.
Delhi was handed a breakthrough on a platter within the first 30 minutes of the morning, as Harvik Desai, having added just three to his overnight score of 104, pushed at a ball from Shokeen towards cover and took off for a single.
But a horrible miscommunication with Chirag Jani led to Desai’s run out, ending a 139-run second-wicket stand. “Bhan toh hovi joiye ne (should have shown presence of mind)”, some said from the Saurashtra dugout before everyone broke into unanimous standing applause for Desai.
Saurashtra lost the next two wickets for just 32 runs, with Jani getting caught behind for 75 off Kuldip Yadav and Sheldon Jackson being clean bowled by Shokeen.
Shokeen last year became the first tactical substitute – known as “Impact Player” – in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Today, he lived up to the tag again, bowling 16 probing overs in the first session at just more than two runs an over. Shokeen’s use of the crease and the round and over angle was impressive. But his workload was exacerbated by the absence of off-spinner Shivank Vashisth, who did not bowl due to a likely injury concern.
Delhi conceded 82 in the first session and picked three wickets. However, its good work was undone by a 99-run fifth-wicket stand between Arpit Vasavada and Samarth Vyas, who struck a fifty to take Saurashtra’s lead past 200. Delhi took the new ball in the 94th over and persisted with Shokeen from one end.
The move ultimately paid off when Samarth failed to negotiate the extra bounce and turn, offering a simple chance at short leg. That turned out to be Delhi’s last moment of elation, as Vasavada took over and continued piling on misery.