A personal triumph for Nehra
Ashish Nehra returned to the Harbax Singh Stadium for Delhi's final clash in the zonal league against table-toppers Punjab. The race for the Devraj Puri Trophy, symbolising supremacy in the North Zone, had boiled down to the result of this game with Delhi (29 points) in hot pursuit of Punjab (32 points).
The awesome Punjab batting line up were rolled over for 187 on the first day. Considering Punjab had topped 400 in each of their previous four games, it was a bolt from the blue, and Nehra was the key figure in the demolition with 4/53. He opened the floodgates, having Punjab skipper Vikram Rathour caught behind by keeper Pradeep Chawla in his fifth over.
Losing wickets at regular intervals, Punjab crawled to 155/6 before Nehra took a hand again, removing aspiring allrounder Harbhajan Singh. One-drop Reetinder Sodhi had held the innings together for Punjab all this while with a disciplined 78, undistracted by the procession at the other end. Nehra finally induced a nibble from Sodhi through to the keeper and in his next over bowled Bharat Bhushan to terminate the innings.
Delhi's batsmen showed little inclination to stick it out, collapsing for 104 on the second day, but Nehra took out both Punjab openers Rathour and Ricky in an inspired burst the same evening to allow Delhi some semblance of hope. On the third day, the 21-year-old bowled middle order bat Pankaj Dharmani as Delhi desperately sought to prevent their fourth innings target from spiralling beyond reach. Harbhajan struck seven boundaries during a rapid top score of 37 before succumbing to Nehra who mopped two other scalps to finish with 6/59.
The target was 280 but Delhi's first innings capitulation did nothing to suggest they were capable of overrunning such a figure. As it turned out they made precisely 200 less, being blown away for 80 in just over 35 overs. While the result was a disappointment for Nehra, the season was a personal triumph for him as he closed the league with 36 wickets from five games, highest across the land.
Ranji Trophy 2000-01
Delhi v Punjab at Delhi, 23-26 Nov 2000
[Scorecard | Match Reports]