Entertainment is the core of Virender Sehwag’s batting. His imperious knock at the Holkar Stadium was intoxicating stuff for the 15000-odd spectators, who filled up the three tiers on either side.
However, they melted away at the fall of his wicket — the vacant seats were a stark contrast to the vociferous ambience that had earlier marked the day’s play in the Challenger Series for the NKP Salve Trophy.
Delhi lost to India Blue by 18 runs, but Sehwag was the winner. When the Nawab of Najafgarh took guard, the crowd went into a delirium, expecting fireworks every ball. They feasted on Sehwag’s offerings.
Yuvraj Singh’s absence dawned on the audience after a while. A back stiffness ruled out the India Blue captain and it impacted the innings as Delhi took early charge.
Naman Ojha, Manish Pandey and Sibsankar Roy went to indiscreet shots before Akshath Reddy and Abhishek Nayar arrested the slide.
Reddy was prudent in his shot selection, but Nayar carved a niche by playing with such abandon that the bowling looked ordinary. Ashish Nehra had strangled India Blue — his first seven overs cost a mere 21 — before he was dealt with severely by a rampaging Nayar.
The Mumbai left-hander, with a prominent crouched stance, stood tall, taking the Delhi bowling by its scruff.
He played quite a few predetermined strokes — nothing more delightful than a glide down the leg — as Delhi struggled to shackle him.
Down the order, Piyush Chawla and Bhuvneshwar Kumar carried on the good work with some sensible batting.
Rajat Bhatia, the wily seamer, was Delhi’s best bowler with a three-wicket haul.
A target of 271 was always going to put pressure on Delhi, which was over-reliant on Sehwag and skipper Virat Kohli.
Mohit Sharma and Unmukt Chand disappointed even as Sehwag tore into the India Blue attack — his drives and cuts were a throwback to vintage times.
His fall was typical too, impetuous and untimely, hurtling Delhi to defeat. Rajat Bhatia’s defiance, a spirited one at that, proved inadequate in the end.
India Blue: Naman Ojha lbw b Bhatia 23 (43b, 2x4), Akshath Reddy b Sood 53 (77b, 7x4), Manish Pandey b Bhatia 0 (4b), Sibsankar Roy b Bhatia 5 (6b, 1x4), Abhishek Nayar c Kohli b Milind 91 (73b, 13x4, 1x6), Ankit Bawne lbw b Narwal 13 (25b, 1x4), Piyush Chawla (not out) 40 (50b, 3x4), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (not out) 29 (23b, 2x4, 1x6); Extras (b-1, lb-10, nb-1, w-4): 16; Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs): 270.
Fall of wickets: 1-56 (Ojha), 2-56 (Pandey), 3-66 (Sibsankar), 4-99 (Akshath), 5-151 (Bawne), 6-222 (Nayar).
Delhi bowling: Nehra 10-1-59-0, Narwal 8-1-42-1, Awana 12-0-51-0, Bhatia 10-0-46-3, Sood 6-0-39-1, Milind 3-0-13-1, Kohli 1-0-9-0.
Delhi: Mohit Sharma lbw b Bhuvneshwar 0 (3b), Unmukt Chand (run out) 13 (21b, 1x4), Virat Kohli c Ojha b Bhuvneshwar 5 (9b), Virender Sehwag c & b Saxena 59 (38b, 9x4, 1x6), Milind Kumar (run out) 22 (36b, 2x4), Rajat Bhatia b Rajpoot 65 (89b, 4x4, 1x6), Puneet Bisht lbw b Rajpoot 23 (26b, 2x4), Sumit Narwal c Ojha b Bhuvneshwar 0 (5b), Varun Sood b Rajpoot 3 (6b), Ashish Nehra (not out) 37 (41b, 1x4, 2x6), Parvinder Awana b Vinay 12 (14b, 1x4); Extras (b-4, lb-1, nb-1, w-7): 13; Total (in 47.5 overs): 252.
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Mohit), 2-7 (Kohli), 3-63 (Unmukt), 4-85 (Sehwag), 5-122 (Milind), 6-160 (Bisht), 7-162 (Narwal), 8-169 (Sood), 9-224 (Bhatia).
India Blue bowling: Bhuvneshwar 10-0-58-3, Vinay Kumar 8.5-0-43-1, Chawla 11-0-57-0, Saxena 6-0-32-1, Rajpoot 10-0-44-3, Nayar 2-0-13-0.