Ranji Trophy: The other Gautam shines on day one

Amitkumar Gautam scored a superb, maiden hundred and saved Rajasthan from the blushes. Riding on his 106, his team could post 238, after being put into bat on the first day of the Ranji Trophy Group B match at the Wayanad Cricket Stadium. In reply, Delhi was 37 for no wicket at stumps.

Amitkumar Gautam celebrates after scoring a fine hundred for Rajasthan against Delhi in the Ranji Trophy Group B match.   -  Special Arrangement

They came in large numbers, hoping to see Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir bat. The spectators at the Wayanad Cricket Stadium did get to watch the two Indian Test openers in action for about an hour on Monday, but it was another Gautam that stole the show on the first day of the Ranji Trophy Group B match.

Amitkumar Gautam scored a superb, maiden hundred and saved Rajasthan from the blushes. Riding on his 106, his team could post 238, after being put into bat. In reply, Delhi was 37 for no wicket at stumps.

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Dhawan batted fluently enough to entertain the fans, who were delighted to watch him pulling and then hooking Pankaj Singh for successive fours.

The Indian opener indeed looked in good touch in his first match after injuring his left thumb during the Kolkata Test against New Zealand seven weeks ago.

Earlier, Rajasthan’s young opener, in only his third Ranji match, also played some audacious strokes against a formidable Delhi bowling attack. He reached his 100 by stepping out and lofting left-arm spinner Manan over long-on.

It was the two partnerships he starred in lower down the order that rescued Rajasthan, which had slumped to 68 for four. He added 59 for the fifth wicket with Salman Khan (31) and 56 for the seventh with Deepak Chahar, who hit 47 off just 66 balls.

Rajasthan’s hopes of a substantial score in the first innings evaporated when Gautam left Chahar in the middle. He was caught nicely by ‘keeper Rishabh Pant, off seamer Vikas Tokas.

Delhi, which fielded four seamers, bowled well to justify skipper Gambhir’s decision to field first. Navdeep Saini and Tokas picked up three wickets each.

But, it was another seamer, Sumit Narwal who provided the breakthrough, trapping Manendra Singh in front in the ninth over of the day. The day’s star later said it was the other Delhi seamer, Pradeep Sangwan, who was more difficult to face.

“The wicket and the conditions were not at all easy for batting in the early part of the day,” said Gautam. “The ball was swinging and seaming. It is gratifying to score a hundred against a quality attack on difficult wicket and when my team needed it most.”

Delhi’s coach K.P. Bhaskar was impressed by the 21-year-old’s knock. “He played his shots though wickets were falling around him,” he said. “And I am glad with the way my boys bowled, though I would have preferred to get Rajasthan out for a lesser total.”