MUMBAI: Sahara Pune Warriors’ debut display in DLF IPL4 was noteworthy, not just for the easy way in which a seven-wicket victory was accomplished, but also for the manner in which seasoned Mithun Manhas and youngster Shrikant Wagh stood up and delivered when opportunity presented itself. Amidst the intense competition for places and coach Geoff Marsh looking at various combinations, the former Aussie opener will be happy at the intensity shown by the two Indians.

Manhas and Wagh got down to business straightaway and were so confident and competent that neither looked out of place in a star-studded line-up. The middle-order batsman whom Delhi turns to in crisis situations, looked in charge from the time he arrived at the crease following South African opener Graeme Smith’s shock dismissal first ball. The left-arm pace bowler from Vidarbha didn’t look out of place when captain Yuvraj Singh gave him to new ball in a four-overs spell shared with South African Alfonso Thomas.

IPL is a double boon for Indian cricket, established first-class players overlooked by national selectors get a golden chance to prove themselves as match-winners. Manhas falls in this category. Promoted to number three as stabilising factor, he rotated the strike for strokeplayers Jesse Ryder, Robin Uttappa, Yuvraj to attack. IPL also thrusts unknowns toiling away for regional sides into the spotlight.

Signed up as backup for Ashish Nehra, Wagh, the youngster from Vidarbha found himself in the line of fire.

Manhas has played pace-maker before for Delhi and North Zone, this was a situation tailormade for him. Five boundaries and one six of astonishing power and timing over extra cover showed his quick reading of the wicket and adaptability against swing and spin. Pune Warriors top-scorer (35 off 32 balls) had earlier kept batsmen in check with off-cutters (3-0-14-0) and may have been a ‘Man of Match’ aspirant, Wagh was the experts choice.

The young left-arm fast bowler may have warming the benches if Nehra was matchfit, but showed no sign of nerves on Sunday night. MRF Pace Foundation had send him to Australia in 2008 for specialized coaching and did enough there to earn a place on the Australian Institute of Sports squad. Teaming up with South African pros Thomas, Wayne Parnell in a high-pressure format on bowlers like T20 is the best education he can get.

Wagh earned wickets of Shaun Marsh, Dinesh Karthik and Piyush Chawla by bowling to the field and moved the ball in the air. Alfonso cramped batsmen with a superb line, so did Parnell and forced Kings XI batsmen to go after the young left-hander. He baited Karthik with a rising delivery around off-stump, the batsmen connected but misjudged the pace and found his cut over slips into Rahul Sharma’s hands at third man.

Pune Warriors won on debut in a canter, without captain Yuvraj having to make a substantial contribution. He used seven bowlers but didn’t have to stretch his bowling arm even once in 20 overs. Wagh (3-16) did the most damage. The captain’s turn to bat came after Manhas had done the hard work, so one of the best finishers in international cricket indulged himself with except an elegant swing over mid-wicket for six enroute to hitting the winning runs.

Manhas and Wagh, making an entry into IPL via different routes, have made the right start in ensuring that first-class cricketers will be dealt with more respect by team coaches like Marsh attempting to strike a balance between glamour of foreign pros and Indians with substance. Pune Warriors have more home-grown talent waiting in the wings for that one chance.

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