A vital cog in the machinery
A Duleep Trophy contest in January 2001 produced Ashish Nehra's most fondly remembered performance. North Zone travelled to Guwahati to take on East Zone and Nehra's eyes must have lighted up as he cast a look at the slightly underprepared wicket laid out at the North-East Frontier Railway Stadium.
Taking first strike after winning the toss, North ran into a rampant Debashis Mohanty who grabbed 6/58 to trundle out the visitors for 206. Batting No.10, Nehra came in at 158/8 and battling for 78 balls, produced a gutsy 24. He was last out but only after guiding North past the 200 mark. East still had to play out 14 overs before stumps but openers Shiv Sunder Das and Nikhil Haldipur were unequal to the task of a handling a red-hot Nehra, emboldened by his activity with the bat.
In his second over, Nehra rapped Haldipur in front for a solitary run and in his fourth over skipper Das followed, caught behind by Vijay Dahiya for three. East closed out the day at a distinctly uncomfortable 26/2. Nehra continued to be unplayable on the second morning. Two runs into the day's play, nightwatchman Mihir Diwakar gave Dahiya his second catch of the innings. Rashmi Parida had resisted for an hour and 20 minutes to make a plucky 28 before he too surrendered to Nehra who soon enough made it five out of five by taking out Rohan Gavaskar for a second ball duck.
Spinners Sanghvi and Sharandeep then gatecrashed into Nehra's party, mopping up the next three wickets as East lurched to 80/8. But the left arm quick could not bear to dole out more of the spoils. In the 39th and, as it turned out, final over of the innings he removed tailenders Utpal Chatterjee and Debashis Mohanty to terminate the innings at 81. Nehra bowled 14 overs, half of which were maidens to finish with the peerless figures of 7/14.
North piled on the agony, running up 268 before folding up late on the second day. Chasing 394 for victory, East did slightly better second time round. Nehra fired the opening salvo, seeing the back of Haldipur for the second time in 36 hours. Left armer Rahul Sanghvi did the bulk of the damage with 4/17 but Nehra did not forbear from delivering two more strikes to take his match haul to 10. North won by 237 runs and went on to lift the Duleep Trophy with a full round to spare. Ashish Nehra was one of the vital cogs in their well-oiled machinery.
Duleep Trophy, 2000-01
Delhi v Tamil Nadu at Delhi, 14-17 Feb 1999
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