"The match is on," said Rajat Bhatia, some time after playing what was probably one of the best knocks of his career.
And the statement aptly summed up the second day's play of the Ranji Trophy Super League final between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday.
If the 2005-06 champions had managed to put Delhi in the back foot in the day's first session, the six-time champions struck back in the following two sessions, ending the day comfortably placed at 196 for 4.
Earlier, Uttar Pradesh, resuming at their overnight score of 292 for 7, added exactly 50 more runs (342) before their first innings folded up.
Ravikant Shukla, not out on 80 overnight, failed to reach his hundred and was accounted for by Bhatia for 96.
Pradeep Sangwan (4 for 80) and Sumit Narwal (4 for 81) were the key bowlers for Delhi.
Opener Aakash Chopra (85 not out) and Bhatia (81 not out) did the rescue work and their undefeated 160-run partnership for the fifth wicket ensured Delhi had wrested back the initiative from their opponents after being reduced to 21 for 3 before lunch.
Bhatia was the more aggressive of the two, his 81 coming off just 135 balls with 10 hits to the fence and three over it. In fact, he reached his half-century before his teammate (off 74 balls) despite coming in to bat much later.
Chopra's innings, on the other hand, was one of fortitude. He took 19 balls to get off the mark and 205 to reach his present score (85). But more importantly, he preserved his wicket even as the batsmen on the other end were falling like nine pins. And it is perhaps his perseverance that helped Delhi mount a fight back while also allowing Bhatia to show some aggression.
In fact 40 of Chopra's first 50 runs came in boundaries - he had 15 in all during the day - and that explains even though he kept himself in check, he dismissed the bad balls to the fence with utter disdain.
Delhi had lost their first wicket with only a run on board and in only the third ball of their innings, with Gautam Gambhir edging one Praveen Kumar delivery to Suresh Raina at third slip. The in-form opener was yet to open his account.
Shikhar Dhawan (14) and Mithun Manhas (0) followed soon after, both accounted for by Kumar whose opening spell read 8-4-11-3.
Aditya Jain (8) was dismissed by Sudeep Tyagi soon after lunch to have Delhi tottering at 36/4. The Chopra-Bhatia combine ensured no further damage was done taking Delhi's score up to 117/4 at tea and then helped their team end the day on a positive note.
"We kept our heads down and played well,"said Bhatia, admitting he was not fit to play (doubting of a hairline fracture).
"To be honest I was not fit but when the team wanted me I played," he said. "I didn't think anybody else could have taken this pressure."
Uttar Pradesh (1st innings, overnight 292/7):
R Srivastava lbw b Narwal 6
T Srivastava c Dhawan b Sangwan 105
S Raina lbw b Sangwan 16
M Kaif c Chopra b Nanda 16
R Shukla c Manhas b Bhatia 96
Piyush Chawla c Jain b Narwal 20
Amir Khan c Chopra b Sangwan 15
P Kumar c Manhas b Narwal 8
B Kumar c Jain b Narwal 10
P Gupta c Bhatia b Sangwan 27
S Tyagi not out 0
Extras: (b 1, lb 13, w 4, nb 5) 23
Total: (all out in 110.1 overs) 342
Fall of wickets: 1-21, 2-60, 3-99, 4-200, 5-231, 6-274, 7-285, 8-297, 9-341, 10-342
Bowling: P Sangwan 27.1-7-80-4, A Bhandari 21-3-79-0, S Narwal 26-5-81-4, R Bhatia 19-3-41-1, C Nanda 16-2-39-1, M Manhas 1-0-8-0
Delhi (1st innings):
A Chopra not out 85
G Gambhir c Raina b P Kumar 0
S Dhawan b P Kumar 14
M Manhas lbw b P Kumar 0
A Jain c Raina b Tyagi 8
R Bhatia not out 81
Extras: (lb 2, w 2, nb 4) 8
Total: (for 4 wickets in 67 overs) 196
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-15, 3-15, 4-36
Bowling: P Kumar 21-6-44-3, S Tyagi 15-4-44-1, B Kumar 12-4-30-0, P Chawla 10-2-47-0, P Gupta 7-2-22-0, R Shukla 2-0-6-0