New Delhi: Leading from the front, skipper Shikhar Dhawan smashed an unbeaten 116 as Delhi thrashed Maharashtra by seven wickets in a Group B Ranji Trophy match to stay in contention for a knock-out berth.
Dhawan anchored the innings to perfection as his unbeaten century helped the hosts chase a challenging target of 270. He got fantastic support from Mohit Sharma (51) and Mithun Manhas who smashed his way to a 40-ball-51 with the help of five fours and three sixes.
En route to his 16th first-class century, Dhawan faced 194 balls hitting 12 boundaries and a six. Dhawan-Manhas combination added 83 runs in only 83 balls in the post lunch session which turned out to be decisive.
Delhi now have 17 points from seven games and they still have a fair chance of qualifying if they beat Vidarbha in their final league game in Nagpur.
It was one of the rare occasion this season when Delhi batsmen, save Unmukt Chand, fired collectively. Unmukt was again guilty of playing a rank bad shot as he tried to cut a delivery from Shrikant Mundhe and dragged the back ball onto his stumps.
However, Mohit Sharma was the partner that Dhawan was looking for as they slowly but steadily started the chase. Dhawan was in punishing mood on anything that was on his pads as well as deliveries that were dug in short. Young left-hander Mohit also played some lovely drives and was the first to reach half-century. The duo added 94 runs for the second wicket as Mohit was trapped leg before by left-arm seamer Samad Fallah at the stroke of lunch.
However, it was this partnership that became an ideal launchpad for Manhas to launch a furious assault on Maharashtra bowlers. He took on seamer Nikit Dhumal who was hit for three huge sixes. The first two came off successive deliveries--- one over long-off and then a slash over deep point.
He also muscled him through square leg for a boundary to get 16 from the over. In the next over he hooked Dhumal over fine leg for his third six. He reached his 50 in no time considering he came into bat when Dhawan was on 42.
When Manhas was finally caught brilliantly by Ankit Bawne at gully off Mundhe's bowling, the match was already in Delhi's grip as they had reached 182.
But Dhawan didn't panic as he added 91 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket with Vaibhav Rawal (35 batting). Not for one second did he try anything flashy and looked very cool as he reached 99 with a boundary and then scampered home for a single to complete the century.
The best thing to come out from this Delhi win was team effort. Youngsters Rawal and Mohit were ready to put their hand up and be counted while veteran Manhas completed 700 runs this season.
Vikas Tokas’s bowling was a bonus and it is only Unmukt Chand's manner of dismissals that will worry coach Vijay Dahiya.
Brief Scores: Maharashtra 196 & 266. Delhi 193 & 273/3 (Shikhar Dhawan 116 no, Mohit Sharma 51, Mithun Manhas 51). Delhi won by 7 wickets.
Points: Delhi 6; Maharashtra 0.