Opening match all about openers

Facing a highly competitive Uttar Pradesh side on the lively Ghaziabad track would have been the last thing on the minds of Delhi's big stars on the match eve. That's because they were preoccupied by more pressing concerns, such as reaching the venue on time, after negotiating the heavy traffic on the choked roads beyond the city limits. With skipper Virender Sehwag missing the pre-game meeting with the match referee as he was caught in the morning office rush, his Delhi teammates were not being paranoid.

With Ranji Trophy action returning to the Nehru Stadium after a gap of four years and top stars expected to take the field on Friday, there was a buzz around ground. Organisers expect a crowd of about 10,000 at the ground and the demand for passes has been unprecedented.

As for the action on the field, Delhi start as outright favourites. Although Sehwag has traditionally avoided opening the innings when he turns up for Delhi, the skipper is likely to join his Team India mate Gautam Gambhir at the top of the order in view of the Test series ahead.

It would also be an ideal preparation for Sehwag and Gambhir as they look to tackle the English quicks, who will rely more on swing and seam like the UP new ball bowlers. Virat Kohli will be keen to extend his purple patch with another big score before the long Test season, though it remains to be seen if he bats in his usual number three slot for Delhi or reverts to the number five role he occupies in the Team India ranks.

UP's bowling would have been perfectly placed to tackle the Delhi batting order, given the variety of seam and spin options at their disposal, but injuries to RP Singh and Piyush Chawla and uncertainty over Sudeep Tyagi has weakened them considerably. Nevertheless, the hosts under new coach Venkatesh Prasad have embarked on playing 'positive' cricket and have taken a calculated risk by preparing a pitch that gives them the best chance to uncork the Delhi batting line-up.

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