All eyes turned towards Gautam Gambhir when Yuvraj Singh won the toss and inserted India ‘Blue’ on a fresh pitch during the opening day of the day-night Duleep Trophy contest at Greater Noida. The experienced opener remained firm to get his team off to a strong start by collaborating adequately with a slightly more attacking Mayank Agarwal.
Both batsmen reached their half-centuries before persistent rain took center stage and brought a premature end to the day’s play. Despite arriving into the encounter on the back of a 219-run win in the preceding game, India ‘Red’ opted to make a couple of changes with the Delhi duo of Pradeep Sangwan and Nitish Rana replacing Anureet Singh and KB Arun Karthik respectively.
Keen to utilize the opportunity to test whether the pink-ball continued to provide assistance to spinners in Indian conditions, the curators did not leave as much grass as the previous match. However, the residual moisture and a cloud cover still kept batsmen on their toes during the first session with the likes of Nathu Singh, Pradeep Sangwan and Ishwar Pandey bowling a probing channel. In response, Gambhir tried to counter the pink ball’s extravagant swing by opening up his stance considerably.
The modified approach helped him weather the awkward angle and out-swing generated by Sangwan in particular. Having seen edges not carrying to the slip cordon, Gambhir was reprieved after the left-arm seamer dropped him when he mistimed a pull off Nathu Singh.
With a close LBW call also going in his favor, the 34-year old capitalized the serendipitous situation by hanging in there. But, he got into his groove at the start of the next session after spending some time at the crease.
Meanwhile, on the other end, Agarwal had his fair share of luck as well with Nathu Singh overstepping after inducing an error in judgment and pouching a straightforward return catch.
Like his senior partner, the right-hander also took advantage of his good fortune by waiting patiently for the loose deliveries to keep the opposition bowlers at bay. A natural stroke player, Agarwal timed a few crisp drives alongside some lofted hits.
Surprisingly, Yuvraj decided to introduce spin as early as in the 12th over itself. But, the hero of the last match, Kuldeep Yadav could not settle into his rhythm and extracted very little from the surface.
When a healthy crowd were enjoying the action from the grass banks, rain played spoilsport by drenching the outfield. Acknowledging that it was going to be impossible to resume play, the officials called it a day shortly after 6 in the evening.
With thunderstorms expected on the remaining three days as well, spectators will be hoping that the weather steers clear and allows the match to proceed.
Brief Scores: India ‘Blue’ - 105/0 from 34.2 overs (Agarwal 53*, Gambhir 51*, Pandey 7-0, Kuldeep 30-0)