Indore: Delhi captain Mithun Manhas led from the front with a knock of 97 on a dodgy track as Delhi took an overall lead of 240 against Madhya Pradesh, in an Elite Group B match of the Ranji Trophy at the Enerald Heights High School ground, on Wednesday.

The encounter that is turning out to be a low-scoring affair saw the visitors take a slender two-run first innings lead as they bowled out Madhya Pradesh for 156 in only 37.1 overs. Ashish Nehra (3/72) and Parvinder Awana (3/51) got three of the four wickets that fell today while one batsman was run-out.

With more than two days to go, Delhi batsmen had to show a lot of resolve and application. Skipper Manhas brought on all his experience of having wriggled Delhi out of the dumps on a numerous occasions during his 13 years at the first class level.

The ball has been doing a fair bit throughout the day Manhas's innings was a blend of caution mixed with aggression. His runs came off 134 balls with 12 hits to the fence.

The skipper was involved in two crucial partnerships -- 50 for the fourth wicket with Rajat Bhatia (16) and 60 runs for the fifth wicket with Yogesh Nagar (35 batting).

Manhas well and truly deserved his 21st first-class century but was out off part-time leg-spinner Zafar Ali's bowling only three runs short of what could be the defining innings of the match.

Earlier, Manhas's gamble of promoting Punit Bisht up the order at No 3 to get some quick runs paid off partially, as the latter scored 25 off 28 balls hitting five boundaries. He also added 44 runs for the second wicket with Shikhar Dhawan (30). Taduri Sudhindra (3/35) was the most successful bowler for Madhya Pradesh.

With two days left and the strip still remaining a challenge for the batsmen, anything in excess of 275 may be difficult for the home team to chase considering the fact that Delhi has a very potent seam attack.

Brief Scores:

Delhi: 158 & 238/7 (Mithun Manhas 97, Yogesh Nagar 35 batting, TP Sudhindra 3/35).

MP: 156 (Naman Ojha 39, Jalaj Saxena 31, Ashish Nehra 3/72, Parvinder Awana 3/51).

Himachal Pradesh in drivers seat against Kerala

Riding on Rishi Dhawan's 99-run knock, Himachal Pradesh posted 452 for eight declared in their first innings before reducing Kerala to 34 for one on the second day of their Ranji Trophy Plate Group A match on Wednesday.

Unfortunately Dhawan missed out on his century by just one run but his 168-ball 99, studded with nine hits to the fence, and his valuable 146-run partnership with Amit Kumar (51 not out) for the seventh wicket, put Himachal Pradesh in the driver's seat.

Earlier, resuming at their overnight total of 243 for two, Himachal Pradesh received a jolt as the former Test player S Sriram got out at his overnight score of five.

Thereafter, they kept losing wickets at regular intervals and were 303 for six at one stage.

But Dhawan found an able support in Amit and the pair took the side to a commanding position.

In reply, Kerala got off to a disastrous start, losing opener A M Hegde (2) caught by Abhinav Bali off Dhawan.

However, in-form Sony Cheruvathur (not out 10) and skipper V A Jagadeesh (not out 20) held on to their wickets when stumps were drawn today.

Kerala batsmen will have to come up with something extra if they want to progress further in the tournament.

Brief scores:

HP 1st innings: 452 for 8 decl (Abhinav Bali 120, Rishi Dhawan 99; Rohan Prem 2/22).

Kerala 1st innings: 34/1.