India Blue, riding on a rampaging 151-run partnership for the fourth wicket between Yuvraj Singh and Abhishek Nayar off just 78 deliveries, helped them set a target of 346, and resisted a late surge from India Red to hold onto a 11-run victory in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy match at Indore.
Undaunted by the herculean task ahead of them, India Red started their chase off on a positive note despite the loss of Robin Uthappa early in the innings.
Uthappa did no good to his chances of a possible comeback into the Indian cricket team as his weakness in negotiating the new ball attack was exposed again. The Karnataka batsman, in an attempt to drive Vinay Kumar’s delivery, only managed an edge to Yuvraj at first slip.
Abhinav Mukund and Smit Patel, coming in at number 3, were extremely fortunate to survive a testing spell from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Vinay Kumar as the edges were either dropped or fell short.
But the pair made complete use of the early reprieves they got by putting together a 134-run partnership for the second wicket before the pressure of asking run-rate acted on Mukund (83 off 86), who holed out at long-on.
The introduction of spinners made life easier for the pair who kept their team in the game for a long time.
Smit Patel, after a 83-ball 67, was forced to retire as a result of cramps. Effectively three down, India Red needed 169 off the last 17.5 overs. To add to that, they were dealt with a hammer blow with the dismissal of Yusuf Pathan for just a solitary run to his name.
Kedar Jadhav and Ishank Jaggi kept the hopes alive by combining to score 68 runs off the next 7.5 overs, belting the fast bowlers to all parts of the ground.
With 104 runs required off the last 10, Piyush Chawla picked up the wickets of both the set batsmen to derail the chase. India Blue almost almost let an easy win slip out of their hands, before scraping through to a 12-run victory.
Earlier in the day, Yuvraj Singh (53-ball 84) and Abhishek Nayar (39-ball 75) made complete use of a lacklustre bowling performance from the India Red bowlers by taking them for 155 runs in the last 13.3 overs.
A number of full-tosses and half-trackers were sent back soaring into the stands by the southpaws. The second wicket partnership between Akshath Reddy (96-ball 84) and Manish Pandey (86-ball 70) laid the foundation for the big-hitters to take the game completely out of India Red’s hands.
Umesh Yadav, in his first spell of four overs, was the only bowler who looked like posing any threat to the opposition. Looking back at the game, Yusuf Pathan would be left ruing his decision to take Umesh out of the attack after a short initial burst.