Vijay Hazare Trophy: Delhi reaches quarters with hard-fought win

Delhi battles to beat Chhattisgarh by 44 runs; debutant Lakshay Thareja (53), Kulwant Khejroliya (four for 27) shine.

Delhi's Kulwant Khejroliya took four wickets against Chattisgarh at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground on Monday.   -  R. V. Moorthy

Forced on the back-foot for the better part of its innings, Delhi battled hard to make it to the quarterfinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy following a 44-run win over a fighting Chhattisgarh at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground here on Monday.

Delhi owed its victory mainly to its bowlers, who not only indulged in some big hitting in the last five overs but also took wickets at regular intervals.

For the record, Delhi late-order batting produced 99 runs in the last 10 overs to reach 245 for nine in its allotted overs. Riding on the momentum, Delhi then bowled out the opposition for 201 in the 46th over.

The triumph helped Delhi (26 points) finish second in Group ‘B’ behind Mumbai (28). Other three teams to reach the last-eight stage from Groups ‘A’ and ‘B’ are Maharashtra, Andhra (26 each) and Hyderabad (22). In fact, Hyderabad owes its existence in the competition to
Maharashtra’s five-wicket victory over Baroda (20 points).

Opting to bat, Delhi faced some accurate bowling from Pankaj Rao and Shakeeb Ahmed and for the first time, the top-order failed to click. Gautam Gambhir (10) fell in the sixth over and the young duo of Dhruv Shorey and Nitish Rana joined their skipper in the dressing room by the 17th over with just 53 on the board.

Unmukt Chand’s long struggle for 98 minutes, which fetched 32 runs off 70 deliveries, finally ended with 77 runs on the board.

Delhi’s resurrection started with debutant Lakshay Thareja (53, 72b, 4x4) and his three small but successive retrieving stands of 25 runs with Manan Sharma (16), 34 with Lalit Yadav (24) and 30 with Pawan Negi (31 not out) lifted Delhi to 176 for eight in the 45th over.

What shifted the tide in Delhi’s favour were the last five overs that produced 68 invaluable runs — the sequence being 14, 6, 14, 15 and 19, with three overs of  Pankaj Rao producing 47 runs!

Delhi’s heroes of this blitzkrieg were Simarjeet Singh (25 off 18 deliveries and last-man Kulwant Khejroliya who smashed three sixes to long-off, off Pankaj Rao’s the last four deliveries! But Khejroliya was far from done with the visiting team. When Chhattisgarh chased, Khejroliya sent back opener Rishabh Tiwari off the second delivery and returned to shatter the stumps of the other opener Ashutosh Singh and trapped dangerman Harpreet Singh in the seventh over to reduce the opposition to 27 for three.

Among the Chhattisgarh batsmen, only Ajay Mandal (40, 41b, 7x4) played with certain purpose. Later, when the defeat stared in the face, Shakeeb Ahmed (38, 44b, 3x4) and Shivendra Singh (25, 20b, 2x4, 1x6) used the long handle and lifted the team from 139 for eight to 201 — adding 51 runs off 43 deliveries for the ninth wicket.

Brief scores:

Delhi 245 for nine in 50 overs (Lakshay Thareja 53, Unmukt Chand 32, Pawan Negi 31 not out, Simarjeet Singh 25) beat Chhattisgarh 201 in 45.1 overs (Ajay Mandal 40, Shakeeb Ahmed 38, Manoj Singh 30, Amandeep Khare 29, Shivendra Singh 25, Kulwant Khejroliya four for 27) by 44 runs.

Toss: Delhi

Points: Delhi (26) 4; Chhattisgarh (16) 0.