Uthappa stars in Blue's easy win
India Blue 235 for 9 (Uthappa 94, Irfan 43) beat India Red 186 (Vijay 89, Tiwary 45*, Ashwin 3-27) by 49 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India Blue began their defence of the Challenger Trophy on a winning note, beating India Red by 49 runs in the opening game in Cuttack. On a track that weared on as the day progressed, Robin Uthappa gave his team a headstart with his 94, Irfan Pathan took them to a more-than-competitive 235, and the bowlers didn't let the initiative slip as Blue pulled off a convincing win.
The only worry for Blue captain Yuvraj Singh, apart from his disappointment with the bat, was the innings from M Vijay. With his 89, the Red opener kept up the fight for his team despite wickets falling at the other end, and he found some support from Manoj Tiwary. However, his team's hopes were nearly over when he fell; lured by a flighted delivery from R Ashwin, he failed to clear the fielder in the deep. The lower order couldn't put up a fight, and the conclusion was only made interesting as Red battled to avoid conceding a bonus point - they ultimately fell three short as Irfan castled No. 11 Mohnish Parmar.
For both teams, the top orders, barring one lone hand each, failed to impress. Yuvraj, eyeing a score of around 250, chose to bat, and his team were given a solid start from Uthappa and Ajinkya Rahane, the Mumbai opener. They picked up the odd boundary against the medium-pacers in their 87-run stand, before Uthappa decided to take advantage of the field restrictions when legspinner Piyush Chawla came on.
Fourteen came in that 13th over, including a six over long-on; Uthappa, though, was lucky Parthiv Patel missed a stumping chance. Twelve came off the next over from Chawla, who finished with a disappointing 1 for 54 off ten overs. However, the momentum given by Uthappa was squandered as Blue lost Rahane and Yuvraj quickly.
Medium-pacer Vinay Kumar and Parmar kept the runs in check. Parmar struck twice in the 26th over to leave Blue at 132 for 4 - removing Virat Kohli before Dinesh Karthik was out for a duck. Just 57 runs came between overs 21 to 35. Uthappa, who was dropped from India's ODI squad for the Sri Lanka tour, looked set for a hundred, but a lazy shot to midwicket off Rohit Sharma saw him fall for 94.
Ravi Inder made a painstaking 17, but Irfan provided the much-needed momentum with a run-a-ball 43. He took a six of Rohit early in his innings, and kept rotating the strike, finding the occasional four to ensure Blue ended up close to the 250-mark.
Irfan then struck early in Red's chase. Parthiv was caught-and-bowled by the left-armer for 6. Chawla was sent in as a pinch-hitter but he was unable to make up for his poor show with the ball. Red found themselves at 27 for 2 in the sixth over, and Vijay and captain S Badrinath quietly looked to build a foundation. They played out two straight maidens - overs 9 and 10 - but got 11 useful runs in Robin Uthappa's over just before the drinks break.
However, soon after the break Badrinath thrusted out his pad to a straighter one in legspinner Chetanya Nanda's first over, and the umpire was convinced the ball would have hit the stumps. Rohit Sharma, who scored an brisk hundred against the visiting Australians in a tour game last month, played an uppish shot too early, and was caught at midwicket.
At 66 for 4, it seemed curtains for India Red, but Vijay and Tiwary fought back. Vijay was the man scoring the runs, upping the ante after a composed start. Boundaries seemed to come at will - he hit Siddharth Trivedi for three on the trot, including a six over long-on. Nanda too was punished when he erred short.
However, Yuvraj and Ashwin quickly chipped in with economical overs, and the required-rate crept up towards six an over. Vijay's dismissal came at an inopportune time, so did the Red's sixth wicket in the next over - Abhishek Nayar was out stumped off Yuvraj.
The spinners then choked chances of another fightback. Tiwary remained unbeaten on 45 from 74 deliveries but was unable to thwart Blue a bonus point. The loss means Red must win their game against India Green on Friday, or in case if the match is abandoned tomorrow, hope Green lose by a bigger margin to Blue on Saturday.