After the World Cup debacle, perhaps nobody wants us to bat out there in the centre,” joked Yuvraj Singh as he exchanged pleasantries with former statemate and now Himachal Pradesh skipper Sandeep Sharma.
The Indian middle-order bat was referring to the comical episode when Delhi-based umpire Rajan Seth gave Yuvraj out caught behind off a free-hit ball. Twenty20 rules stipulate that a legitimate ball following a no-ball is declared a free-hit and the batsman cannot be dismissed unless he is run out. However, the umpire had a lapse of concentration and raised his finger which was contested by Yuvraj standing on the wicket. And following consultation with the leg-umpire, Seth reversed his decision.
But the Punjab-Himachal game had more thrills to talk about. Opting to bat first, Sandeep had almost turned the tables on Punjab with a sparkling 60, including two successive sixes off VRV Singh. Paras Dogra, who fell five short of a well deserved 50 and a late surge by Sangram Singh with an unbeaten 36 off 29 balls helped Himachal notch up 169/3 in their 20 overs.
But all eyes were on Yuvraj Singh as he walked in at No. 3 after Punjab lost an early wicket. After surviving that ‘dismissal’ he looked in good nick in a short stay of 12 balls. But his 17 had three hits to the boundaries. For once, even Yuvraj marvelled at young Karan Goel, his left-handed partner at the crease, for his strokeplay and clean hitting. Goel carried on and along with Dinesh Mongia brought Punjab closer to the target with a 63-run partnership. Mongia showcased his proficiency in this abridged version with 39 off 26 balls while Goel hit four sixes and eight boundaries in his spectacular 60. Punjab eventually won by three wickets to top the group with eight points.
In the day’s first match, Virender Sehwag had a fairly easy day in office as his side registered a 45-run win over Jammu & Kashmir. Sehwag’s bat spoke for a few minutes — he made 29 from 27 with three boundaries — but his chief contribution came by turning his arm over with three wickets for 19 in his quota of four overs.
However, the day belonged to Virat Kohli. The India under-19 star walked in at the early fall of Gautam Gambhir and played his shots right through. His booming drives and backfoot punches were a treat to watch before he cut loose, putting his more illustrious teammates under shade.
Kohli precision cut open the field through a neat combination of power and placement. His 76 contained seven fours and two sixes and came mere 45 balls to rev up the excitement in the crowd on a hot Wednesday morning at the Kotla. Delhi’s total of 174 was always a big ask for J&K, and with the exception of Ian Dev Singh, they crumbled under a mounting required run-rate.