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The haze refused to clear; all day the sun maintained a tempered orange glow. On the field, the stars failed to twinkle. While they didn't quite see their favourites dazzle, the 10,000 who occupied every possible vantage point at and around the Nehru stadium watched a splendid spell from of a small-town boy from Bhadohi near Benaras — till now chiefly known for its carpets.
Imtiaz Ahmed made the best use of what resembled a green carpet to produce five for 59, his best-ever first class figures, achieved in his seventh Ranji match. The pacer didn't try anything extraordinary, but kept a nagging off-stump line and allowed the pitch to help him in his endeavour while building up reasonable pace against perhaps the strongest line-up in the domestic fold.
In the middle session, Punit Bisht made 52 and Mithun Manhas 42 to steer Delhi away from embarrassment, as momentum oscillated fabulously and the tournament opener, hitherto subsumed by England Test series preparations, came back to focus as a contest between two strong state sides.
Delhi, shot out for 235 in 65.2 overs, hit back to dismiss Tanmay Srivastava as Uttar Pradesh went to stumps at 40 for 1.
The pitch required batsmen to pack a couple of slices of luck in their kitbags alongside immense concentration and tight technique. Virender Sehwag walked out with Gautam Gambhir after UP skipper Suresh Raina won a crucial toss. Sehwag continued to play and miss outside the off stump. The Kumars — Praveen and Bhuvneshwar — operated from either end and got the new ball to dart around at will to leave the openers looking dishevelled. Sehwag seemed unable to decide whether to play his natural game or make concessions to the surface, and ended up meeting the ball with unusual tentativeness.
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