New Delhi: Skipper Shikhar Dhawan led from the front, scoring his 15th first-class century before young Unmukt Chand hit a composed unbeaten 134 to help Delhi finish the opening day at 287 for one against Tamil Nadu in their Ranji Trophy Group B match, here on Saturday.
Sent into bat, the openers feasted on a placid Kotla track as the two rattled a 205-run first wicket partnership to put Delhi in a commanding position.
Tamil Nadu used as many as seven bowlers to get a breakthrough but luck eluded them till the 57th over when off-spinner R Aushik Srinivas disturbed the timbers of Dhawan (104).
Dhawan departed five minutes before the tea break. His 175-ball knock was laced with 18 fours.
Soon after, Unmukt came up with his fluent hundred when he drove Yo Mahesh through mid-wicket. His unbeaten 228-ball knock was studded with 16 fours and two sixes off Aushik over long-off.
The clash, which was dubbed as a battle of equals with both teams sitting pretty on eight points from their respective three matches, turned out to be a one-sided affair, at least on the first day, as Dhawan and Unmukt pummelled the visitors` bowling attack with their resolve and determination.
The pace duo of Laxmipathy Balaji and Jagannathan Kaushik failed to create any impact in the morning session as Dhawan and Unmukt went about their business in style.
Right-arm pacer Yo Mahesh came up with few beauties early on but went wicketless from his 14 overs.
The spin quartret of M Rangarajan, Aushik, R Prasanna and Baba Aparajith also failed to create any impact as Dhawan and Unmukt showed immense technique and skill to tighten the noose around the neck of the hapless visitors.
After the dismissal of Dhawan, Mohit Sharma (40, 77 balls, 7 fours) combined well with Unmukt and stitched an 82-run unconquered partnership for the second wicket.
"I am relieved after scoring my first century of this season but the job starts tomorrow again. My plan was to stay at the wicket as long as possible and Shikhar played a perfect partner to me," said an elated Unmukt.
"In this match, I wanted to play freely, calm and compsed. My approach kept me going and helped me really ease the pressure down. I anchored my innings in sessions and waited for the right deliveries," he added.
Asked about a possible double century tomorrow, Unmukt, India`s U-19 World Cup winning captain said, "It`s not on my mind right now. I am happy that I returned back unbeaten and placed my team in a strong position. The wicket is slowing down a bit and I will look to carry on from where I had left today."
Skipper Dhawan also lavished praise on Unmukt and said, "He batted really well and displayed immense patience at the crease. His shot selection was very mature."
On his individual hundred, Dhawan said, "I have improved a lot than the previous season. My batting has really improved after playing in IPL, Challenger and Irani matches. The aim was to negotiate the first hour without any damage as there was a tinge of grass on the wicket and we managed to do it successfully. I am happy with my knock."
For Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya, it was one of the best opening partnerships in 10 years.
"I believe there hasn`t been any 200-plus partnership for the opneing wicket for Delhi in the last 10 years. It was an amazing display of caution and aggression. Both mixed it up well. Dhawan led from the front and Unmukt played his perfect ally," Dahiya said.
"The first two hours were crucial and both batted superbly. I am very happy the way Unmukt batted and showed enough of his mature side. He has a bright future and his mature knock today was a testimony to that."