With three wickets in the final session of the third day, Punjab took a clear edge over hosts Delhi in a Ranji Trophy group A encounter which looks poised for an exciting finish in New Delhi on Wednesday.
At stumps, Delhi were 60 for three chasing a tough target of 327 after Punjab scored 402 in their second innings with significant contributions from skipper Mandeep Singh (60), Gitansh Khera (49) and Siddharth Kaul (32 not out). This was after opener Jiwanjot Singh (147) had laid the foundation scoring an impressive century on Monday.
It will be an interesting final day as Delhi will require to score 267 runs to win with seven wickets in hand. Unmukt Chand (0) made a poor judgement as he didn't offer a stroke to an inswinger from Sandeep Sharma. Vaibhav Rawal (35) looked good during his hour-long stay before he was played on off Manpreet Gony.
Mithun Manhas (0) had a poor match as he was bowled by an incoming delivery from seamer Jaskaran Singh. Skipper Gautam Gambhir (22, 71 balls, 3x4) is battling it out in the middle with nightwatchman Ashish Nehra for company.
Virender Sehwag hasn't yet come out but is expected to bat at the fall of the next wicket on Wednesday. It was a day when Punjab batsmen totally dominated the proceedings with skipper Mandeep Singh playing an important role. While Jiwanjot played his defensive game, chipping away with singles and odd boundaries, Mandeep started attacking the Delhi bowlers. He took on Nehra (4/101), pulling him for a six over mid-wicket and then lofted Rajat Bhatia in the next over for boundary over mid-on. Mandeep's 80 came off 113 balls, an essay that included eight fours and a six. The fourth wicket partnership with Jiwanjot yielded 159 runs and it was the foundation for Punjab's big lead.
Mandeep was unlucky when a delivery from Navdeep kept really low and he was trapped leg before. In the post-lunch session, Gurkeerat Singh (24) and Jiwanjot were out in quick succession. Having played only 12 minutes short of seven hours, the right-hander was finally dismissed by Saini who induced an edge taken by 'keeper Rahul Yadav.
Wicketkeeper Gitansh who hit seven fours and Siddharth who had five boundaries to his credit, added 41 for the ninth wicket as Punjab's lead went past 300 runs.
Brief scores: Punjab 74 & 402 (Jiwanjot Singh 147, Mandeep Singh 80, Gitansh Khera 49, Ashish Nehra 4/101). Delhi 150 & 60/3 (Gautam Gambhir 22 batting).