Battle-hardened Shikhar Dhawan was all guts and grit while negotiating tough conditions in his comeback game as he boosted Delhi's morale with a well-controlled 137 against Hyderabad in their Ranji Trophy Group A match in New Delhi on Wednesday.
A spicy Feroz Shah Kotla track to deal with on a chilly Delhi winter morning was a stiff challenge and Dhawan responded with an unbeaten century that took his side to a safe 269 for six on a curtailed opening day.
Dhawan's knock would do a world of good to the confidence of a side, which was spiralling southwards, as he hit 19 fours and two sixes in his 198-ball innings.
"It was more like English conditions. It's satisfying to score runs in these conditions. With experience you get idea of what shots to play on what kind of track. The shots that I would have played when I was a 21 or 22 years old, I didn't play here. I didn't drive any of those deliveries," Dhawan, playing his first first-class game in 15 months, said.
Dhawan's body language never gives away what's on his mind and he says his uncluttered mind is the secret of his success.
"I had nothing on my mind. Jo cheez aani hai woh aa jati hain (I react to situations). I am a very relaxed person and I don't make my mind heavy with extra thoughts. The way you guys think, I don't think like that," he laughed.
With ball seaming around throughout the day and most of the Delhi batsmen looking uncomfortable, the skipper walked the talk as he had said on the eve of the match that he hasn't forgotten to bat.
"Today, I played what we call 'Box cricket' which means playing close to your body. I didn't play most of the deliveries outside the off-stump. Some of our young guys, fiddled with those deliveries. Now this comes with experience. You have a look at the wicket and you know what shots you will play," said the left-hander, who scored his 30th first-class hundred.
Using the early morning conditions, Mohammed Siraj (2/60 in 16 overs) removed Kunal Chandela (1) and Dhruv Shorey (0) in quick succession with seaming deliveries -- one that went away and one that came in.
Dhawan was hardly perturbed as the first dazzling stroke was a backdrive off seamer M Ravi Kiran.
It was a test of patience for Dhawan when left-arm spinner Mehedy Hasan was in operation as Delhi were 128 for five at one stage.
He only opened up when hee moved to 70s, having got a reprieve off a no-ball from Ravi Kiran when he was on 67. He first lifted Tanay Thyagrajan into the stands towards the Delhi Gate end. The next six was even more regal off Mehedy as he deposited him over the midwicket boundary.
"I changed my game (according to the situation) because when the left-arm spinner (Mehidy Hasan) was bowling, I was itching to hit him. But looking at the overall situation, I curbed my instincts as there wasn't much batting left."
Anuj Rawat (29), who shared a 84-run stand for the sixth wicket with Dhawan, was the only batsman who showed positive intent while batting.
"I try to mix and interact with them at their level. I share my experiences. I talk to the batting unit about what all can be done and Ishant talks to the bowlers.
"The experience that we have gained in so many years, it's nice to give it back to the players. If guys benefit from it, it feels great. Now that we have come, the momentum that was needed, we got that," said Dhawan, who feels 269/6 is also a good score on this track where Delhi is yet to bowl.
"Whatever we get is a good score as there was a time when it didn't seem like we can even score 200. On this wicket even 269 is a good score," he said.
Delhi 269/6 in 66 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 137 not out, Anuj Rawat 29, Kunwar Bidhuri 22 not out) vs Hyderabad.
Rahane, Shaw fail as Railways bundle out Mumbai for 114
Test specialist Ajinkya Rahane and young prodigy Prithvi Shaw miserably failed with the bat as Railways bundled out Mumbai for a paltry 114 on the opening day of their Elite Group B Ranji Trophy match in Mumbai.
This is perhaps the first time that the 41-time Ranji trophy champions have been shot out before lunch.
However, Mumbai bowlers, led by debutante Deepak Shetty (3-20) initially came hard on Railways before their captain Karn Sharma (24 not out) and 33-year-old Arindam Ghosh (52 not out) rallied their innings with their unbroken 73-run stand for the sixth wicket.
Their partnership ensured that Railways took the first-innings lead and ended the day at 116/5 as bad light stopped the play at 3.54 pm IST.
Earlier, the famed Mumbai batting line-up collapsed as little-known right-arm medium pacer Pradeep T (6-37) ran through their line-up on a greenish Wankhede wicket.
Railways were rewarded for bowling a disciplined line and length as they gave nothing away.
Mumbai openers -- Shaw (12) and Jay Bista (21) -- conjured just 18 for the first wicket before Shaw's leading edge was caught by Pratham Singh at gully off medium pacer Amit Mishra (3-41).
No 3 Rahane had an opportunity to get runs under his belt, but he fell for just 5 as he edged to second slip, giving Pradeep his first-wicket.
Immediately after that, Pradeep dismissed Bista, who was caught by wicketkeeper Nitin Bhille to leave the hosts reeling at 40-3.
Mumbai's crisis man Siddhesh Lad (14) and skipper Suryakumar Yadav (39) tried to rebuild the innings with their 30-run stand, but medium-pacer Himanshu Sangwan (1-33) broke the partnership as he cleaned up Lad.
Mumbai batters Aditya Tare (4), Akash Parkar (2), Shams Mulani (1) and Shardul Thakur (0) made a beeline to the pavilion as Railways had a clear advantage.
Skipper Surya top scored for Mumbai and struck five boundaries in his quick-fire 40-ball knock before he was bowled by Pradeep as he tried to play across
After Surya fell, it was just a matter of time as Mumbai's innings folded up at 114 in 28.3 overs.
Railways also had a horrendous start as opener Pratham Singh (9) was trapped in front of the wicket by Shetty in the 12th over.
From 20/1, Railways slipped to 24/3, as Mumbai pacers wrecked havoc as they dismissed Nitin Bhille (0), Mrunal Deodhar (12) and Navneet Virk (0) in quick succession.
Medium-pacer Akash Parkar (1-18) struck off his third ball as he removed Dinesh Mor (9), who gave a sitter to Shardul Thakur (0-43) at point as Railways lost half of the side for 43.
However, Ghosh and Sharma joined hands and pulled the side out of trouble.
Pradeep, who earlier played for Karnataka in white ball cricket, later said this was his first five-wicket haul and he enjoyed Surya's wicket the most as he had planned for it. This is his first season for the Railways.
A source in the Mumbai Cricket Association said that the second day's play will start at 11.30 am on Thursday due to solar eclipse.
Mumbai 114 (Suryakumar Yadav 39, Jay Bista 21; Pradeep T 6-37) vs Railways 116/5 (Arindam Ghosh 52 not out, Karn Sharma 24 not out, Deepak Shetty 3-20).
At Indore: Tamil Nadu 149 (B Aparajith 61 not out, V Ganga Sridhar 43; Ishwar Pandey 6-26) vs Madhya Pradesh 56/3 (Rameez Khan 23 not out; T Natarajan 2-23).
At Rajkot: Saurashtra 322/8 (Cheteshwar Pujara 57, Shelon Jackson 57, Saurabh Kumar 1-79, Zeeshan Ansari 3-125) vs Uttar Pradesh.
At Mysuru: Karnataka 166 (Karun Nair 81; K D Singh 5-37, Rishi Dhawan 3-27) vs Himachal Pradesh 29/3 (P Khanduri 14 batting, Pratik Jain 2-11).
Raman's second successive century lifts Bengal
Left-handed opener Abhishek Raman held the Bengal innings together with a gritty unbeaten 110, taking the hosts to 241 for four against Andhra on day one of their Elite Group A Ranji trophy fixture, in Kolkata.
Raman survived some anxious moments especially in the 90s before pulling KV Sasikanth over square leg to score his second successive century.
Raman, who scored 110 in Bengal's win over Kerala in their previous match, got good support from former skipper Manoj Tiwary as they revived the innings in the post-lunch session after being reduced to 99 for two.
While Raman batted through the day, facing 255 balls, Tiwary too was at his fluent best, striking a six and six fours. They added quick 87 runs for the third wicket before Tiwary was done in by a short one from CV Stephen, the most impressive Andhra bowler.
Andhra set Tiwary up well with short-pitched deliveries as he top-edged one to get out for 46.
"I am sure he will not sleep well tonight. He could have converted it into a big one," Bengal coach Arun Lal said of Tiwary's dismissal.
"It was a tactic as they bowled him short without a slip. He (Tiwary) played well and his contribution with Raman took the team forward. He is not the player to leave it at 46."
The visitors suffered a setback when left-arm spinner G Manish dislocated his shoulder after falling awkwardly while fielding and was ruled out of the match.
Bengal had their backs to the wall after their skipper and ace batsman Abhimanyu Easwaran (6) got out cheaply edging one behind the stumps inside the first hour after Andhra won a good toss under hazy conditions.
Koushik Ghosh (37) got a start but was trapped by off-spinner Shoaib Khan while number Sudip Chatterjee fell cheaply for 18.
As fortune favours the brave, Raman stayed on and survived a stumping on 93 and thereafter a catch fell short of short midwicket fielder before he finally reached his fourth Ranji Trophy century.
Raman who had a fine 2017-18 having scored two centuries including his careerbest 176 against Himachal Pradesh did not get a triple last season.
"I didn't bat well in the post-tea session. Four times, I was close to getting out in 90s, so I was a bit of nervous. I just wanted to clear the square leg fielder and got a fine timing to clear the rope," Raman said.
"We will look to negate the new ball and then assess the situation," he said about their strategy.
Bengal 241/4; 83 overs (Abhishek Raman 110 not out, Manoj Tiwary 46; CV Stephen 2/60) vs Andhra.
Ranji roundup: Dhawan hits century; Rahane and Shaw fail