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There aren't many venues on the domestic circuit that haven't seen the batting exploits of domestic cricket's big run-getters Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia. As for Kotla, their backyard since junior days, it has witnessed several of their exploits. On Tuesday, the two added one more chapter to their tale of valour while representing Delhi.
Manhas (106, 15x4) and Bhatia (133 n.o, 13x4, 1x6) compiled a crucial match-saving partnership of 133 runs (321 balls) as Delhi ended the fourth day on 505/6 in reply to Baroda's 565. With Delhi's first inning not complete, both teams got a point each. Having missed the first two matches with a knee injury, Bhatia returned for the Baroda game not just to strengthen the middle-order but also pick key wickets. His all-round effort won him the Man-of-the-match award.
With Delhi 215/3 overnight, Baroda fancied their chances of claiming 7 wickets on the final day and go home with 3 points. For the ball to roll their way, they need the wickets of the two veterans, who knew the Kotla track like back of their hand. The visiting bowlers had planned and plotted the first three dismissals on Day 3 but in Manhas and Bhatia they were dealing with men who knew virtually every trick in the trade. The duo devised a strategy that can be expected from men with 15 years of experience behind them. The plan was simple: Not to allow the ball hit the pads.
"We had a chat on Monday night about the ways in which one can get out on this track. After assessing Baroda's innings, we concluded that since the ball was moving late, lbw could be the mostly likely mode of dismissal on this placid pitch. So we avoided the on-drive and cross-batted shots, at least for the first session," said skipper Bhatia.