A formidable Delhi outfit boasting of some big names will try to avert an outright defeat against a spirited Uttar Pradesh side as an injured Virender Sehwag led the visitors' fight to keep themselves in contention in their opening Ranji Trophy group league game in Ghaziabad on Sunday.
Having conceded a sizeable first innings lead of 168 runs, Delhi finished the third day's play at 197 for four to take a lead of 29 runs with six second innings wickets in hand. UP scored 403 in their first innings.
Captain Sehwag, who had a cut on his ring finger, came in at number six and was batting on 21 at stumps. Delhi will depend on him and seasoned pro Mithun Manhas (63 batting, 10x4 ) who has again shouldered the responsibility of playing the role of sheet anchor to perfection.
Although Sehwag looked in discomfort, he did hit some lovely shots including back-to-back boundaries through off-side of Suresh Raina's bowling. One of the three fours was a majestic backfoot cover drive.
Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir contributed 43 and 47 respectively but both played poor shots after getting well-set.
Earlier, Praveen Kumar smashed a quickfire 51 not out off only 57 balls as Uttar Pradesh finished their first innings on a commendable 403, thereby getting a comprehensive lead of 168 runs. Delhi had scored 235 in their first essay.
UP started the day at 292 for six and Delhi pacer Ashish Nehra made amends for his lacklustre bowling on Saturday by removing Amir Khan and Ali Murtaza in quick succession for individual scores of nine and eight respectively.
However, Praveen came in and his 'no-holds-barred' approach helped Raina to get out of the shell as they added 43 runs for the ninth wicket.
Raina, who began from his overnight 19, hit some crisp boundaries on the off-side region as he went on to score 55 off 112 balls. His innings contained nine boundaries with seven being hit on Sunday.
Praveen's batting has deteriorated over the past few years but the moment he starts connecting, he proves to be a more than handy batsman. With minimum footwork, he is able to pack the maximum punch in his shots.
He effortlessly lifted left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra for two straight sixes apart from five spanking hits to the fence.
Credit goes to Imtiaz Ahmed (10) as he hung around for close to an hour with Praveen, adding 38 runs for the final wicket.
Sumit Narwal was the most successful bowler for Delhi, taking four for 71 while Punit Bisht took five catches.
Delhi's second innings started on a disastrous note as Unmukt Chand (0) was trapped plumb in-front by Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Gambhir and Virat looked in total ease as they hit a flurry of boundaries. Gambhir even lifted left-arm spinner Murtaza over long on for a six but was back at the pavilion immediately when he edged one to glovesman Amir when the ball turned a shade.
Virat looked elegant as he repeatedly drove on the up but was guilty of playing away from his body to a Bhuvneshwar delivery.
Bisht edged one off Imtiaz to Amir and in walked Sehwag much to the delight of the capacity crowd.
The final day's outcome will now depend on how well the 'Nawab of Najafgarh' performs.