New Delhi: Maharashtra opener Harshad Khadiwale cracked a fine 96 as the visitors made 266 in their second innings on Monday to set a target of 270 for Delhi. Resuming from their overnight score of 3 for no loss, Maharashtra openers, Khadiwale and Virag Awate, safely negotiated the first half an hour. While Awate was dour, Khadiwale was more enterprising as he smashed a couple of lovely cover drives off Pawan Suyal in the third over of the day and followed it up with a trenchant cut off Vikas Tokas in the next over.
But Sumit Narwal, who was the pick of Delhi bowlers in the first innings, struck twice in the eighth over of the day. He trapped Awate in front of the wickets for 3 and caught Sangram Atitkar on the backfoot as the ball rapped on his pads. Atitkar looked unhappy with the decision and stayed at the wicket for a minute looking perplexed. Though he didn't get much purchase off the wicket in the morning, Narwal bowled an incisive spell (7-3-9-2), surprising batsmen with subtle variation in pace.
Ankit Bawne, who scored 58 in the first innings, was dropped by Mohit Sharma at extra cover when he was batting at 2. The batsman played on the up and ball was in the air; Sharma got both hands on to it but spilled it at the last moment. Bawne was watchful early on but played some fne flicks and drives once he got the measure of the pitch. Meanwhile, Khadiwale notched up his half-century by whipping Rajat Bhatia to square leg boundary. At lunch, Maharashtra were 100-2.
After lunch, both batsmen got into the groove and knocked off runs at a fair clip. Next 50 runs came off just 12 overs as Maharashtra reached 150 in the 50th over of the innings. Bawne, who played on the frontfoot in the early part of the innings, began to strike well on the backfoot as well. He unfurled a cracking cut off Tokas to reach his second half-century of the match.
Bawne was held out in the deep point off Tokas in the same over trying to tonk the ball over boundary line. He made 55 off 107 balls, including 11 boundaries, and forged a splendid 130-run partnership with Khadiwale. Pradeep Sangwan, who trundled out seven no-balls in the first innings, didn't improve much and continue to overstep in the second innings as well. He got Khadiwale caught behind at 68 off a no-ball and later castled Shrikant Mundhe again off a no-ball.
Maharashtra skipper Rohit Motwani and Kedar Jadjav perished in quick succession, both to Suyal off consecutive balls, and Khadiwale too was snared soon after by Tokas. The 24-year-old opener missed out on a century as he shouldered the arms to an in-dipper which ducked in and reoved the bails. He made 96 runs and visitors were reduced to 170 for 6.
Chirag Khurana and Shrikant Mundhe cobbled together and compiled a useful partnership. Mundhe was comfortable on frontfoot as he whacked a couple of boundaries off Tokas in the 76th over of the innings, while Khurana played mostly on backfoot, cutting and dabbing the balls through backward point and third man. They added 67 runs for the seventh wicket before Mundhe was castled by Sanwgan for 33.
Anupam Sanklecha became Narwal's third victim and was caught at gully by Unmukt Chand. Nikit Dhumal played a glorious straight drive off to get off the mark and was dropped in the next over by Delhi captain Shikhar Dhawan at first slip off Suyal. Sangwan chalked up the next two wickets - trapping Khuaran lbw for 38 and cleaning up Samad Fallah for a duck - to bowl out Maharashtra for 266.
For Delhi, Narwal and Sangwan nailed three wickets each while Tokas and Suyal snaffled two wickets each. Maharashtra had taken a 3-run lead in the first innings and Delhi have a target of 270 runs to chase on the last day of the match to earn an outright victory and keep their hopes of qualifying for the knockouts alive.
Khadiwale, who made 96 on Monday, told reporters after the match that he is not too disappointed about missing out on a hundred as his innings helped team to reach a very good total on a 'difficult' pitch. "I am not thinking too much about getting out on 96. I am rather happy that I able to perform well in a crunch situation and led my team to a very good total. 270 is a tough chase on a difficult wicket and we are aiming to bowl Delhi out tomorrow to scoop an outright victory."
When asked about the nature of the pitch, he said that pitch has become slightly better to bat on but still ball is not coming onto the bat. "The pitch has surely eased out a bit compared to the first day wicket but the balls are still holding up and shot making is not easy on this wicket. Fast bowlers still have juice in the wicket and if they bowl in the right areas they can extract swing and lateral movement. The odd-ball is keeping low."