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Inspiring century by Jadeja

By Our Special Correspondent

DHARAMSHALA, JAN. 9. Ajay Jadeja's inspiring century formed the backbone of Delhi's 78 - run convincing victory in the North Zone one-day league at the Dharamshala Cricket Stadium here.

The show by Jadeja had an infectious effect on debutant Yugesh Sachdeva, who produced a tight and rewarding spell of four for 26 to complete Jammu and Kashmir's misery on a day of exacting conditions. Delhi managed a bonus point thanks to seamer Amit Bhandari striking three blows at the right time.

Icy winds greeted the players as sun played hide and seek in the first session after Jadeja elected to bat. It was the right decision considering Delhi's next outing against a strong Punjab here on Tuesday, but two early blows by Shafqat Baba disturbed the calculations that the Delhi skipper had in mind. In the end, J & K, true to history, only flattered to deceive.

Innings of character

After watching openers Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan perish to flashy shots, Jadeja assumed the role of a saviour as is his wont and produced an innings of character to put the issue beyond J & K.

For Delhi run-making was quite a task against an opposition that stood motivated by the early success. Jadeja and the seasoned Mithun Manhas, in a third-wicket stand of 127 runs, ensured there were no more alarms and J & K gradually saw the game slip away.

It was not that J & K allowed the match to drift but Jadeja was in such a brilliant form that there was hardly a false step from this former India cricketer. The J & K attack hardly had an impact on this dashing cricketer. That he loves his cricket was evident in Jadeja's flawless knock that lasted 138 balls and included ten fours and two sixes, the second of them off left-arm spinner Jagtar Singh carrying him past the century mark in grand style.

Manhas plays his part

The credit for thwarting the J & K designs went to Manhas. His innings, sweet timing being the hallmark of his performance, was just the tonic for Delhi to organise itself. He missed scoring chances by often driving to the fielders but when he beat them Manhas prospered with a flourish that marks his stylish batsmanship. His 91-ball knock contained five fours.

Delhi had four debutants in one-day league — Rajan Gupta, Shikhar Dhawan, Sachdeva and Chetnya Nanda. "Two early to pass judgement on them because the opposition was weak. I would say it was ideal for them to make debut ahead of a big match. I know it was not an easy pitch to bat on but ideally, I would've liked the batsmen to get more runs," said Delhi coach Madan Lal.

As has been the trend most of this season, Delhi needed Jadeja's reliable batting to pull the side through. Of course Manhas had his glorious moments on the field but Jadeja dominated, his class oozing in those effortless drives in front of the wicket. When Jadeja was on strike, the pitch looked a batting paradise.

The story of the Delhi innings was well documented in the fact that Jadeja and Manhas aggregated 168 runs between them as the rest, without exception, put up a shoddy display.

Memorable day for Nabi

It became a memorable day for young fast bowler Abid Nabi, a promising cricketer from the valley. Not yet 19, this strongly-built performer gained from Delhi's hustle to get quick runs in the slog overs. The analysis, however, was too flattering for Nabi since four of his wickets came when the batsmen were only throwing the bat around.

J & K never looked like troubling the Delhi bowlers. Off-spinner Sachdeva thrived by bowling to his field and it turned out to be a tame surrender by J & K as batsmen after batsmen threw his wicket away. Delhi had completed the rout on expected lines, in the process discovering the bitter truth that its batting revolves around Jadeja. Its bowling lacks teeth too.

The scores:

Delhi: S. Dhawan b Baba 10, G. Gambhir lbw b Baba 0, M. Manhas b Mahajan 59, A. Jadeja c Malik b Nabi 109, R. Bhatia c Malik b Nabi 17, R. Gupta b Nabi 3, V. Kumar c Bali b Nabi 5, A. Nehra b Nabi 8, C. Nanda c and b Baba 2, A. Bhandari (run out) 2, Y. Sachdeva (not out) 1, Extras (b-5, nb-2, w-4) 11, Total (in 49.4 overs) 227.

Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-22, 3-149, 4-200, 5-205, 6-212, 7-222, 8-223, 9-224.

J & K bowling: A. Nabi 10-0-50-5, S. Baba 9.4-1-30-3, Shashi Kumar 10-1-35-0, Jagter Singh 9-0-42-0, D. Mahajan 8-0-42-1, P. Bali 5-0-23-0.

J & K: P. Bali (run out) 0, N. Want c Manhas b Sachdeva 15, Kamaljeet Singh lbw b Sachdeva 24, D. Mahajan c and b Sachdeva 14, M. Dar c and b Sachdeva 4, Anshuman Sharma c Nanda b Manhas 13, S. Kumar (run out) 3, S. Malik lbw b Bhandari 11, A. Nabi b Bhandari 11, S. Baba b Bhandari 30, Jagtar Singh (not out) 4, Extras (b-3, lb-9, nb-3, w-5) 20, Total (in 43.2 overs) 149.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-52, 3-59, 4-68, 5-75, 6-78, 7-92, 8-104, 9-143.

Delhi bowling: Nehra 6-3-10-0, Bhandari 10-2-26-3, Bhatia 5-0-14-0, Sachdeva 10-1-26-4 (w-1), Nanda 10-1-55-0, Manhas 1.2-0-2-1, Gambhir 1-0-2-0.

At Hamirpur: Services 164 in 49.1 overs (Vikramjeet Singh four for 35) lost to Himachal Pradesh 165 for three in 37.4 overs (Manvender Bisla 60 not out).

At Una: Haryana 238 for nine in 50 overs (Bageshwar 70) lost to Punjab 240 for nine in 49.4 overs (R. Ricky 96 not out, R.S. Sodhi 44).

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