SPORT

Gautam Gambhir (218) goes on rampage

CUTTING LOOSE: Board President's XI's opener Gautam Gambhir, who carved out a delightful double century, cuts Zimbabwe's Raymond Price to the fence, as wicket-keeper Tatenda Taibu watches, on the opening day of the three-day match at Vijayawada on Friday. - Photo: N. Balaji.

CUTTING LOOSE: Board President's XI's opener Gautam Gambhir, who carved out a delightful double century, cuts Zimbabwe's Raymond Price to the fence, as wicket-keeper Tatenda Taibu watches, on the opening day of the three-day match at Vijayawada on Friday. - Photo: N. Balaji.  

VIJAYAWADA, FEB. 15. In the cauldron of international sport, belief in one's own abilities is of vital importance.

Contests such as the Board President's XI's three-day encounter against the visiting Zimbabweans, which began at the Indira Gandhi Municipal Corporation Stadium here on Friday, is a test of ability and nerves for young Indian hopefuls who are fully aware that one never gets a second chance to make a first impression, and that first impressions count. For a few others, it is a make-or-break situation.

Young Delhi opener Gautam Gambhir's defining quality is his self-belief. The left-hander also has that rare ability to cut out a particular stroke if need be. He proved this during his magnificent innings of 218 (405m, 284b, 40 x 4), a knock that should book him a place for the forthcoming Test series.

Largely due to his innings, the President's XI, opting to bat, was 361 for three at close.

In the very second over of the day, bowled by pacer Brighton Watambwa, Gambhir, playing away from his body, edged behind to Taibu what turned out to be a no-ball. To his credit, it must be said that Gambhir never repeated the mistake.

The secret of consistency, perhaps, is to concentrate on nothing but the next ball. And Gambhir was concentration- personified thereafter, taking his time to judge the bounce of the wicket before unleashing his repertoire of strokes.

Gambhir and Gagan Khoda gave the home team an 87-run start. Khoda played fluently on the on-side in his innings of 41 (80b), but didn't quite display the collected batsmanship of his partner.

Gambhir, a compact player, possesses sound technique, which is accentuated by his sure footwork both within the crease as well as while using his feet to the spinners. Not to forget his sound defence and the ability to find the gaps.

Runs come easily to Gambhir. He accumulates them at a fast clip, as was evident here. A good judge of singles, he is quick to convert them into twos. A sweet timer of the ball, he packs a mighty punch in his drives.

Only Heath Streak was probing enough, among the four mediumpacers on view this day. Watambwa was a touch erratic at the start while Mbangwa was not really posing problems. Travis Friend didn't get too far either. The wicket being on the slower side, they probably didn't get enough assistance.

Streak kept it on and outside off-stump to Gambhir, getting the ball to cut back now and then. Gambhir showed sound backfoot play, especially when Streak came around the wicket and pitched a few short. Gambhir punching Streak to the fence off the back-foot was by far the pick of his strokes.

Khoda was caught at mid-on trying to hit left-arm spinner Raymond Price over the top. Khoda had earlier lofted the bowler for a six and had also taken three boundaries off Watambwa earlier.

Gambhir made the most of a rather poor over by Friend to settle down, picking up three boundaries. Thereafter it was massacre in broad daylight as he tore into the attack with his superb strokeplay. He hooked, pushed another past slip and then cover-drove Watambwa for boundaries before shifting his focus on Price.

Gambhir reached his 50 with a step-out drive to the fence off Price, his 100 with a pull to the boundary off the same bowler, his 150 with an exquisite cover-drive to the fence off off-spinner Trevor Gripper and his 200 with a short-arm pull (he didn't meet it properly though) off Watambwa.

Meanwhile, skipper Rahul Dravid, who walked in at No. 3, notched up a neat half-century while putting on 175 for the second wicket with Gambhir before edging behind while making room to cut Price.

Nothing could have stopped Gambhir from reaching his double hundred, his second consecutive 200-plus score (earlier 214 against Railways in the Ranji Trophy pre-quarterfinals).

He also has two double centuries to his name at the junior level, one in the inter-State championship and the other against England Colts.

Such command was he in that he took six boundaries off Heath Streak when the latter came on with the second new ball.

He was out, caught at first slip off Mbangwa, some four overs before close, obviously done in by exhaustion. By then he had added 94 with Abhijit Kale for the third wicket.

``Gambhir batted very well. It is nice to see a youngster doing well,'' said Rahul Dravid. ``I'm really happy with my performance,'' said Gambhir, who left the Zimbabweans in a daze. Gautam Gambhir has arrived.

The scores:

Board President's XI - 1st innings: Gautam Gambhir c Andy Flower b Mbangwa 218, Gagan Khoda c Friend b Price 41, Rahul Dravid c Taibu b Price 50, Abhijit Kale (batting) 40, P. Mullick (batting) 0; Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-1, nb-7) 12; Total (for three wickets in 97 overs) 361.

Fall of wickets: 1-87, 2-262, 3-356.

Zimbabwe bowling: Heath Streak 17-7-51- 0, Brighton Watambwa 17-2-85-0, Travis Friend 11-1-56-0, Raymond Price 26-5-102-2, Mpumelelo Mbangwa 19-8-41-1, Trevor Gripper 7-0-22-0.

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