Delhi 271 for 6 (Shorey 123*, Himmat 66, Gurbani 2-44, Thakare 2-65) v Vidarbha
Vidarbha started their first Ranji Trophy final with a showing they will be fairly happy with, but would have been happier if they had capitalised on a mix-up to run Dhruv Shorey out on 33. Ultimately, Delhi’s No. 3 went on to score his third first-class hundred, the first of this season after three half-centuries, and steered his team to a relatively safer position of 271 for 6 in Indore.
Shorey’s innings started with plenty of misses outside off but ended with several solid strokes, including numerous drives and cuts for 17 fours. Delhi were reduced to 99 for 4 just after lunch before Shorey’s composed knock combined with the attacking strokeplay of No. 6 Himmat Singh.
The day started with ample swing on a pitch that could have enticed many military medium-pacers out of retirement. However, it was a bowler starting his career – 19-year-old debutant Aditya Thakare, coming in for Umesh Yadav – who troubled Delhi from the first over. His outswingers beat Kunal Chandela twice in the first three deliveries and then induced an edge for first slip on the fourth ball.
Rajneesh Gurbani, though, did not bowl with as much precision and preferred shorter deliveries early on. Thakare, on the other hand, troubled Gambhir as he first sent the ball through the left-hander’s expansive drive in the third over and then produced three straight lbw appeals in the fifth over that were rightly turned down.
It looked like Gambhir was settling in when spin was introduced as early as the 13th over. Akshay Wakhare came around the wicket to turn one away but the hard, new ball zipped off the deck and deflected off the pads onto the off stump. Wakhare had done his job and was taken off.
Shorey, meanwhile, stuck to playing with the straight bat and the other batsmen kept surviving. In the 14th over, an edge flew off Nitish Rana’s bat just wide of gully and two overs later a leading edge went back towards the bowler but it was just wide of Gurbani. Thakare finally sent Rana back in his third spell by pinning him in front with an inswinger.
Rishabh Pant, too, started with a leading edge and the pace bowlers swung the ball into him constantly, some of them off an uncomfortable short length. Vidarbha’s biggest chance to dismiss Shorey came on the fourth ball after lunch when he pushed one into the covers and both batsmen almost ended up at the non-striker’s end but the fielder threw the ball at the very same end. That incident, however, did not change Pant’s approach. He soon tried a wild heave against Thakare but could not get close to it at all and, two overs later, he almost endorsed a cement brand with his feet stuck to the ground and his bat chasing a delivery outside off for an edge. Delhi were reeling at 99 for 4.
From there, Delhi fought back to strengthen their position in the second session. Shorey had ambled along to 38 and was joined by Himmat, who has three half-centuries in his four first-class innings – all this season – with a lowest score of 45. The pace of Himmat’s and Shorey’s innings were contrasting enough to force Vidarbha into several bowling changes. Himmat did not show the patience he should have early on by first slogging Wakhare to deep midwicket where the ball landed short of Ganesh Satish and hit his nose to make him leave the field. The very next ball, Himmat stepped out of the crease and a leading edge flew over the covers and he survived again.
He did not curb his strokes, though. Himmat clubbed left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate for two sixes down the ground and brought up his fifty off 60 balls. In the third over after tea, he punished Gurbani for three consecutive fours but the pace bowler replied immediately with one that swung in sharply and late to take Himmat’s inside edge to the keeper.
Delhi were 204 for 5 and Shorey, on 75, showed how unfazed he was when Gurbani pitched one up in his next over and Shorey produced an exquisite straight drive for his 12th four. Instead of chasing balls away from the body like some of his team-mates, Shorey preferred to let the ball come to him and played them late.
When the Vidarbha bowlers tempted him to drive for edges, he either let them go or drove them off the middle to collect boundaries whenever the bowlers erred. His calm attitude did not waver because Delhi’s next wicket – Manan Sharma – fell when Shorey was in the nineties but he brought up his century with a single two balls later.
Vidarbha took the second new ball after 83 overs when Delhi had crossed 250. Gurbani had left the field in the 67th over with some discomfort in his leg which meant the new ball was shared by Thakare and Siddhesh Neral, and they beat the batsmen a few times but Delhi finished the day six down with Shorey on 123.