Delhi's pacers Ishant Sharma and Pradeep Sangwan took three wickets apiece as Rest of India were dismissed for a disappointing 252 in their first innings on day one of the Irani Trophy tie in Vadodara on Wednesday.
India's Test team captain Anil Kumble had billed the match as an important part of preparation for the upcoming Australia Test series, but his batsmen failed to seize the opportunity. Wasim Jaffer was the top-scorer with a fluent 50, but even he was guilty of failing to consolidate after getting settled.
The big names -- Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni -- fell by the wayside without sizeable contributions. Even Subramaniam Badrinath and Mohammad Kaif, contenders for a Test spot, failed to make it count, giving the Indian captain plenty to ponder ahead of the opening Test against Australia, beginning in Bangalore on October 9.
The day though belonged to India's latest pace sensation, Ishant. The 20-year-old pacer broke the backbone of Rest of India's batting, claiming the important wicket of Dravid, who was out after a lacklustre innings of 46, and followed it up with the wicket of a subdued Badrinath, who played on to his stumps, after a painstaking 16 from 62 deliveries.
Rest of India's agony ended when he cleaned up last-man Munaf Patel for 19.
Sangwan, 18, followed up on Ishant's good work in the post-tea session, inducing Mahendra Singh Dhoni (5) to edge the ball to the slips.
The tailenders also did not provide much resistance as the left-armer bagged the wickets of Anil Kumble (9) and Zaheer Khan (0), both caught behind by wicketkeeper Puneet Bisht.
In reply, Delhi openers, Akash Chopra and Gautam Gambhir, put on a confident display in the few overs they played before stumps. Chopra, in particular, got off to a brisk start as he scored 16 off 18 deliveries, inclusive of three boundaries. Gambhir was unbeaten on 4 as Delhi finished the day on 21 for no loss in five overs.
Rest of India captain Kumble elected to bat on winning the toss, hoping his batsmen would pile on a huge first innings score. He went in with five bowlers, leaving out Parthiv Patel.
Openers Dravid and Wasim Jaffer started cautiously, especially against Ishant, who got a bit of movement early on. The lanky pacer was unlucky not to have gobbled Dravid early, as Akash Chopra, at second slip, grassed an easy chance.
Dravid, on 10, tried to flick Ishant on the leg side but got an inside edge that hit his thigh and carried to second slip, where Chopra failed to hold on.
Dravid took a while to get going before he scored his first boundary in the 21st over. He hit leggie Chetanya Nanda through the covers off the 52nd delivery he faced in the innings to move to 16.
Jaffer looked completely at ease, hitting a few delightful boundaries before completing a half-century in the 24th over. His fifty included five boundaries and came off 89 deliveries. But that landmark seemed to have upset his concentration and he perished two balls later.
The Mumbai opener drove uppishly against Nanda but only straight to Kohli in the cover region. He dominated the opening stand of 77 with Dravid, who struggled to get going on a slow wicket at the Reliance stadium.
VVS Laxman threatened briefly with a few boundaries at the start, including a thumping pull off Sangwan. But Delhi then dried up the runs much to the annoyance of the Hyderabadi batsman, who then hit Virender Sehwag straight to the midwicket fielder and was out for 17.
Kaif (29) and Badrinath had the perfect opportunity to stake claim for a Test berth, but even they perished cheaply.
Dhoni (5) and Anil Kumble (9) fell to the left-armer Sangwan before Kaif obliged Nanda with a pull straight to the midwicket fielder. Zaheer Khan got a faint edge to an out-swinging delivery from Sangwan to wicketkeeper Bisht and was out without scoring.
R P Singh scored 18, adding 38 runs for the ninth wicket with Harbhajan Singh before he guided a short delivery from Nanda to the slip fielder.
Munaf Patel (19) and Harbhajan then provide some entertainment by hitting a few boundaries before the former was bowled by Ishant.
Harbhajan was left stranded on 26, inclusive of three boundaries, as Rest of India folded up for 252 in 81.3 overs.
Rest of India (1st innings):
Wasim Jaffer c Kohli b Nanda 50 (91b, 5x4)
Rahul Dravid lbw Ishant 46 (85b, 4x4)
S Badrinath b Ishant 16 (81m, 2x4)
VVS Laxman c Manhas b Sehwag 17 (52b, 3x4)
Mohammad Kaif c Gambhir b Nanda 29 (81b, 1x4)
M S Dhoni c Chopra b Sangwan 5 (17b)
Anil Kumble c Bisht b Sangwan 9 (17b, 1x4)
Harbhajan Singh (not out) 26 (33b, 3x4)
Zaheer Khan c Bisht b Sangwan 0 (10b)
R P Singh c Chopra b Nanda 18 (30b, 2x4)
Munaf Patel b Ishant 19 (10b, 4x4)
Extras: (B-3, LB-1, NB-13) 17
Total: (all out in 81.3 overs) 252
Fall of wickets: 1-77 (Jaffer), 2-112 (Dravid), 3-127 (Badrinath), 4-162 (Laxman), 5-172 (Dhoni), 6-186 (Kumble), 7-186 (Kaif), 8-187 (Zaheer), 9-225 (RP Singh).
Bowling: Ashish Nehra 14-2-59-0 (nb-3), Ishant Sharma 12.3-5-22-3; Pradeep Sangwan 15-1-57-3 (nb-4); Rajat Bhatia 4.5-0-28-0 (nb-6); Chetanya Nanda 27.1-3-60-3; Virender Sehwag 8-1-22-1.
Delhi (1st innings):
Aakash Chopra not out 16 (18b, 3x4)
Gautam Gambhir not out 4 (12b)
Extras: (LB-1) 1
Total: (for no loss in 5 overs) 21.
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 2-1-8-0, RP Singh 2-0-7-0, Anil Kumble 1-0-5-0.