Karnataka pacemen prove too hot for Delhi

Tidy spells fr­om Karnataka bowlers thr­e­w Delhi in a tizzy on the op­ening day of their last Ranji Trophy Group A encounter on Monday. 

On a traditionally slow and low Feroz Shah Kotla pitch, the table-toppers dominated all the three sessions to bowl out the home side for 202 in the first innings before bad light drew early stumps.

 Karnataka openers Karun Nair and Mayank Agarwal, who stepped in for KL Rahul, had barely played an over for 2/0 when the play had to be stopped for the second time in the day because of dimming light. A total of 19 overs got wasted on a day when Karnataka put themselves in a good position following the exploits of their new ball pair -- captain R Vinay Kumar (4/40) and HS Sharath (3/58). Their incisions to the Delhi batting delayed the arrival of the spinners — Shreyas Gopal (2/31) and Abrar Kazi, who came in place of KP Appanna.

 Medium pacer Ronit More, replacing Abhimanyu Mithun, got the dream wicket of Virender Sehwag, who looked in fine touch.

The morning, though, was accompanied by a sunny spell when Delhi went into bat after winning the toss. The hosts had made four changes to the side — left-arm spinners Manan Sharma and Varun Sood replacing Vaibhav Rawal and injured Parvinder Awana while Navdeep Saini made way for a last-minute inclusion of offie Manoj Chauhan and Milind Kumar stepped in for opener Unmukt Chand.

 In Chand’s absence, Sehwag (32) opened the innings along with captain Gautam Gambhir (54) and simply got cracking. Their rousing 54-run stand was the only high point of the otherwise dismal batting show by Delhi.

Sehwag looked in his elements as boundaries flew from his willow. Among his five hits to the fence, there was a lovely drive which pierced the mid on, a wristy flick to the midwicket region and a strike which scythed through the point. Gambhir, content being the second foil, grafted a patient innings to give Delhi a promising start.

More provided the breakthrough for Karnataka. His short pitched ball caught Sehwag off guard and ricocheted off his awkward defensive block to the diving More on the pitch. It triggered off a collapse and the hosts were quick to slip to 84/3.

 Gambhir and Manan provided the brief resistance with their 35-run stand for the fourth wicket. But Shreyas caught Manan plumb in front and Sharath accounted for Gambhir, who in his attempt to guide the ball ended up being caught at the first slip. The reliable Rajat Bhatia was done in by Vinay, who knocked off his stumps when the latter attempted to cut the ball. Sumit Narwal entertained with his two back-to-back sixes over the long on to help Delhi go past the total of 200.

 Delhi, needing an outright victory to stay in contention for the knockout stage, might have made their task even tougher.

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