New Delhi: Virat Kohli made a mockery of Bengal bowling with a brilliant 173 before the visitors led by Ashok Dinda made a comeback to restrict Delhi to 328 for six in reply to Bengal`s first innings score of 473 in a Group A Super League match of the Ranji Trophy here on Wednesday.
The match is slightly tilted towards Bengal with Delhi needing 146 runs while Manoj Tiwary`s men needing four wicket taking deliveries in order to get the first innings lead.
A lot will depend on how the pair of Rajat Bhatia (24, 71 balls, 2x4) and Sumit Narwal (13 batting, 43 balls, 1x4) bat on the final day at the Feroz Shah Kotla here.
The pair batted for 79 minutes after Delhi slumped from 261 for two to 295 for six as they lost four wickets with addition of 44 runs in a space of 12 overs.
It was Virat on whose shoulders Delhi`s chase depended and the former India U-19 captain responded beautifully. A double hundred was there for the taking before a direct throw from Arindam Das found him a couple of feet short of his ground.
Kohli struck 24 boundaries and a six in his 267-ball knock.
The dismissal brought Bengal right back in the match as Ranadeb Bose and Dinda then quickly got rid of Mithun Manhas (43), Gaurav Chhabra (14) and Puneet Bisht (9), who was brilliantly caught at forward short leg by debutant Abhishek Chowdhury.
Earlier, starting alongside Shikhar Dhawan (42), Kohli showed positive intent right from the start. Rather than trying to see off the Bengal pacers in the first session, he punished loose deliveries from both Bose (1/92) and Dinda (3/87).
While Dinda put in a more disciplined effort Bose was guilty of spraying the deliveries on both sides of the wicket which Virat took full advantage.
If he looked comfortable against the pacers, his footwork against the spin duo of Sourashis Lahiri (0/38) and Iresh Saxena (0/44) was equally delightful.
On a pitch where the ball was keeping low at times, Kohli did not remain rooted to his crease negating any low bounce or turn that the spinners would have got. The six off Lahiri over long on was a treat to watch.
The only time he looked like getting out was on 74 when he flicked Bose uppishly and Saxena stationed at mid-wicket dropped a sitter. That proved costly as Virat did not give a single chance after that.
He got his hundred with successive boundaries off Bose. First a flashy cut shot through the third-man region and then driving Bose on the up to bring up his sixth century in first-class cricket.
Although senior players like Dhawan and Manhas were involved in 118 and 137 runs partnerships respectively, their batting lacked the spunk that Virat had.
Perhaps that was the reason why Delhi batsmen went into a shell after Virat`s dismissal. The same Bengal bowling that looked ordinary in the first one and half sessions looked deceptive during the final hour.
Bengal speedster Dinda, who was the pick of the bowlers said that the visitors have every chance to get the first innings lead since they have now got the dangerman (Kohli) out.
"Virat (Kohli) was the main wicket and we had to get him. We should have got him early but then you miss a few catches. But we stuck to a disciplined line. I was particularly satisfied with the spell I bowled to Virat in the post-lunch session. He didn`t look comfortable against me and I was fancying that something would happen," Dinda said.
Asked about what made Kohli special from other first-class batsmen, Dinda said, "An average first-class batsman may just play a dot ball off a bad delivery but Virat can stun you hitting a good delivery for boundary."
Asked about his verbal duel with Kohli, Dinda tried to play down the incident stating that this happens in the field.
"Virat and I are good friends. We were competing on the field and there is nothing much to talk about it."
The Bengal team are already running 13 overs short despite play being extended by half an hour during the last two days.
Brief Scores: Bengal 1st Innings 473. Delhi 1st Innings 328/6 (Virat Kohli 173, M Manhas 43, A Dinda 3/87)