SPORT

Gambhir leads Delhi to final

Special Correspondent

INDORE: Skipper Gautam Gambhir did the job expected of him with his third century of the season and laid the foundation for Delhi’s resounding seven-wicket victory over Baroda with a day to spare in the Ranji Trophy cricket semifinal here on Tuesday.

After Baroda’s last four wickets added 61 runs in 64 minutes, during which Yusuf Pathan completed a century, Delhi faced a target of 271.

The left-handed Gambhir kept Delhi on the right track by annihilating the bowling with a strokeful 132, but left the stage for his teammates to finish the job.

Eventually, Rajat Bhatia put the finishing touches soon after joining a composed Aditya Jain at the fag end of a successful chase at the Usha Raje Stadium.

The victory ensured Delhi’s first entry into the final since 1997. On that occasion, Delhi finished runner-up to Mumbai at Gwalior in the only day-night final of the National championship.

Aiming for a seventh title, Delhi plays Uttar Pradesh in Mumbai from January 16. For Baroda, the defeat meant a third successive exit from the semifinals.

Intensity

On Tuesday, Delhi showed the intensity and the resolve needed to score 271 in the fourth innings.

Considering the fourth-day pitch that offered unpredictable bounce, the target looked a challenging one.

But the Delhi batsmen attacked all the way hitting two sixes and 39 boundaries on a pitch that did not quite encourage stroke-play to make it look easy.

Delhi did not miss the services of opener Akash Chopra. The in-form opener did not take the field after complaining of dizziness and nausea owing to pressed nerve on the back of his head in the morning.

The resultant low heartbeat warranted urgent medical attention for Chopra, who later said he was okay and would be fully fit for the final.

Gambhir, who hit 23 boundaries during his 179-ball stay, once gesticulated rather obscenely towards the Baroda dressing room and later termed it as a “trivial issue.”

If Delhi could finish the job in under 80 overs, it was mainly due to the fine strike-rate of Gambhir. In fact, it was Gambhir’s urgency that cost him his wicket. After having hit Pathan for three boundaries in a row, Gambhir immediately offered a catch to Connor Williams.

The scores:

Baroda — 1st innings: 199.

Delhi — 1st innings: 271.

Baroda — 2nd innings: Satyajit Parab b Awana 11, Connor Williams b Awana 0, Azhar Bilakhia b Bhatia 17, Rakesh Solanki lbw b Bhatia 96, Shatrunjay Gaekwad c & b Awana 46, Pinal Shah b Nanda 15, Yusuf Pathan c Jain b Bhandari 113, Rajesh Pawar (run out) 11, Sankalp Vohra (not out) 24, Sunit Singh lbw b Bhatia 0, Salim Veragi c & b Nanda 1, Extras (b-5, lb-2, nb-1): 8; Total (in 98.2 overs): 342.

Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-12, 3-56, 4-135, 5-160, 6-278, 7-303, 8-325, 9-326.

Delhi bowling: Bhandari 19-6-56-1, Narwal 24-7-73-0, Awana 17-0-79-3, Bhatia 11-1-42-3, Nanda 18.2-4-53-2, Manhas 7-0-13-0, Aditya 2-0-19-0.

Delhi — 2nd innings: Shikhar Dhawan (run out) 48, Gautam Gambhir c Williams b Pathan 132, Aditya Jain (not out) 39, Mithun Manhas c Williams b Veragi 36, Rajat Bhatia (not out) 6, Extras (lb-8, nb-3): 11; Total (for three wkts. in 79.4 overs): 272.

Fall of wickets: 1-136, 2-211, 3-266.

Baroda bowling: Sunit 16-1-59-0, Veragi 11.4-2-43-1, Vohra 16-5-34-0, Pathan 25-3-83-1, Pawar 11-3-45-0.