Victory turned out to be a mere formality for Delhi eventually, wrapping up an eight-wicket win against Mumbai in their Ranji Trophy Group B clash within a span of 90 minutes at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Friday morning.
Delhi’s victory was against the odds for many reasons — they hadn’t won a game after their first five matches this season as against Mumbai’s three wins. Delhi were missing regular skipper Yash Dhull due to food poisoning and a host of their first-choice pacers owing to injury. Never mind that Delhi’s only outright win against the 41-time Ranji champions had come way back in the 1979/80 final.
Having taken just 11 deliveries to claim the last Mumbai wicket on the fourth day, the hosts needed just 15.3 overs to knock off the target of 95. the winning runs came from Nitish Rana’s blade, toning left-arm spinner Shams Mulani for a six over long-on off his first delivery of the innings. Although Delhi don’t have a chance of making the knockouts, their win has repercussions for Mumbai. the Ajinkya Rahane-led side has now slipped to third in Group B with 23 points, behind Saurashtra (26 points) and Maharashtra (25 points). Mumbai face Maharashtra in their final group game at Brabourne Stadium from January 24-27. Only the top two teams from each group advance to the quarter-finals.
It was only on the eve of the game that Dhull’s unavailability was confirmed, resulting in batter Himmat leading Delhi for the first time. But the 26-year-old – he has led Delhi in age-group cricket – was unfazed by the additional responsibility, scoring a crucial 85 in his first innings. While Delhi have just one inconsequential game against Hyderabad remaining this season, this confidence-boosting result is likely to spur the side’s inexperienced players going forward.
“There is a certain level of comfort. I’ve led Delhi (in junior cricket) in my younger days. I don’t take pressure. I thought of it as a normal game because I have done captaincy before as well,” Himmat told reporters after the match.
“We have set a benchmark now. We have to maintain this. We cannot afford to relax that we have won one game. There are inexperienced players. It has taken them 2-3 matches to understand what they could do better,” he added.
Rahane knows that Mumbai have to quickly dust off the disappointment of the past four days and focus on getting maximum points against Maharashtra. the game went out of Mumbai’s grasp on Thursday when they were reduced to 37/5 on a pitch with low bounce.
“You get these kind of pitches in domestic cricket. That is the challenge. You have to adapt to it. In Mumbai, we get red-soil pitches that are completely different. Here in Delhi, the wickets are generally on the slower and lower side. It is about how badly you want to do it for the team,” said Rahane.
Brief scores: Mumbai 293 and 170 (A Rahane 51, T Kotian 50 not out; D Mehra 5/30). Delhi 369 and 97/2 (H Shokeen 36*). Delhi won by 8 wickets.