Ghaziabad, Nov. 5 -- During the tea break on Sunday, Virender Sehwag emerged, clad in blue and bat in hand, and hit a few strokes against the sightscreen to the chants of his name. Concerns over his finger injury were eased sometime after tea when he came out to bat at No 6 in a bid to rescue Delhi, who then trailed by 22 runs in the Ranji opener.
Uttar Pradesh smelt blood and greeted the skipper with four short deliveries. A couple of confident strokes off the full face of the bat were followed by one where he played and missed.
Sehwag moved away to banish that shot, shadow practicing on how to leave.
On Monday, the last day of the tie, a composed Sehwag (21 not out), willing to pick the right length and line, will be needed to help Delhi avert defeat and make a statement about his form and fitness.
His seasoned partner Mithun Manhas, batting brilliantly on 63 (10 fours) is the other hope Delhi have.
Sehwag did alright in the limited time he got at the wicket, driving Praveen Kumar through covers for four and then steering Suresh Raina for two fours.
After the Gambhir-orchestrated turnaround on Saturday, Delhi were expected to mop up the UP tail early, and face a small first innings lead. However, UP's last two wickets put on 80.
Few players can match the grit and aggression of Praveen. The crowd wasn't kind to him, someone called him nakli (fake) and Ashish Nehra too looked equally unkind with words and bouncers.
However, Praveen isn't the one to budge. He gave back to Nehra in kind, and smashed him for four through covers and then flicked him through midwicket for another boundary.
He hoisted left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra for two sixes. Raina at the other end played blistering strokes and the confidence of the two rubbed on the No 11 batsman, Imtiaz Ahmad, as well.
UP were on top as U-19 star Unmukt Chand, promoted to open in place of Sehwag, was out for nought. Gambhir, despite an edgy start, and Virat Kohli, looked good.
Gambhir (47), who played crisp drives, edged one to the 'keeper off spinner Ali Murtaza and Kohli (43), who too got some drives going, also 'nicked to the 'keeper, leaving Manhas and Sehwag to fight it out.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.