India Blue v India Green, Challenger Trophy, 3rd match October 25, 2008

Blue dash Green's final hopes

Cricinfo staff

India Blue 218 (Uthappa 76, Yusuf 3-21) beat India Green 199 (Pujara 65, Ashwin 3-46) by 19 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details


Robin Uthappa's 76 helped India Blue to 218, which they successfully defended © Getty Images
 

Needing to chase 219 to make it to Sunday's final, India Green muffed their chances and succumbed to a 19-run defeat. A poor start put pressure on the middle order, which in turn failed to come up with the goods, and by the time Cheteshwar Pujara fell for 65, the match was out of Green's control. India Blue themselves had failed to bat out 45 overs - overnight and morning rain forced the reduction in overs - but a tidy bowling display backed up Robin Uthappa's 76 for a win that will boost their confidence ahead of Sunday's final against India Red.

On a day that threw up pretty ordinary cricket, Green had poor fielding to blame. Pankaj Singh should have an early wicket but Mohammad Kaif dropped Virat Kohli in the first over at second slip. While RP Singh bowled Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, both batsmen perishing to needless shots, Pankaj looked on as RP spilled a straightforward catch running back from mid-off. Uthappa was on 29 then. In the next over an aerial cover drive, hit very hard, screamed past a clueless Suresh Raina at short cover. Another thick edge flew wide of the slips before Pankaj finally got his name into the wicket's column when an lbw appeal against Arjun Yadav was upheld.

Uthappa, unusually watchful to begin with, meted out punishment to Pragyan Ojha - he hit three fours and two sixes off the left-arm spinner - but also fell to him in the 31st over. Shaping to sweep Ojha, he was given lbw for 76. Uthappa's front-foot driving remained his strongest means of scoring, but he did powerfully swing three sixes down the ground and to the leg side.

Yogesh Takawale played well for a 50-ball 34 before he tried to carve Yusuf Pathan over the infield and the ball spiralled up and settled into wicketkeeper Naman Ojha's gloves. Against India Red, Blue were boosted by Irfan Pathan's 43, and today he came up with a 34-ball 28, which included three fours before he was cleaned up by his half-brother Yusuf. He removed R Ashwin in the same over, and the first two deliveries of the 45th over resulted in wickets as Blue were bowled out for 218.

When Green's chase began, Kohli held an exceptional one-handed catch at gully to send Shikhar Dhawan back in the third over. Irfan was lucky to pick up a second wicket, however. Naman drove at a wide one and there was no deflection, just bat hitting ground, but umpire Shavir Tarapore raised his finger. Raina hit a few pleasing shots but failed to curb his enthusiasm in Ashok Dinda's first over. A short ball came on quicker than Raina expected and his attempted pull lobbed up to mid-off.

Kaif's painful innings of 7 from 32 deliveries came to an end when Chetanya Nanda won an lbw appeal in the 19th over. Seven overs later Nanda drew a top edge from Rajat Bhatia and the chase was one step closer to being derailed. Pujara batted with composure, if not fluency, and held up one end. The run-rate had already inched up while Kaif was struggling at the crease, and Yusuf 's dismissal after a brisk 32 was the turning point. When he departed, chipping a return catch to Ashwin a ball after he hit him for six, Green needed 65 from 54 balls. Ashwin added RP in the 40th over. In his next over, he lured Pujara (65) out of his crease and had him loft the ball to Nanda at deep midwicket. The tail offered little resistance and Blue wrapped up victory by 19 runs.