Blue retain title with crushing win
India Blue 152 for 2 (Rahane 53*, Uthappa 46, Kohli 35*) beat India Red 151 (Badrinath 56, Praveen 35, Trivedi 3-23) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India Blue retained the Challenger Trophy, putting together their most emphatic performance of an unbeaten campaign in the final in Cuttack. As bright as Blue's show was in the eight-wicket thrashing, so was the dullness of Red's display. Their batsmen put up a paltry 151 and their bowlers failed to strike early to make the contest a bit more exciting.
Blue had successfully defended targets in their two games, and if Red's decision to bat first was prompted by a thought of breaking that trend, it surely didn't work. They were bowled out for 151 in 43 overs. Ashok Dinda and Siddharth Trivedi struck the early blows to leave Red at 72 for 6, and if not for a 66-run stand between captain S Badrinath and Praveen Kumar, Red might have well folded up for much less.
If the Red's batting was lacklustre, the start for Blue put out any doubts as to who the winner would be. Ajinkya Rahane continuously pinged the off side for fours, sometimes a touch risky, and overshadowed Robin Uthappa, the leading run-getter in the tournament. Uthappa was tentative to start with, and his timing far from perfect, but he made up for the sluggish beginning by taking on Piyush Chawla. When Uthappa holed out in the deep off the same bowler, the openers had put on 93 in 14.3 overs, effectively closing out the contest.
Things did not go to plan from the start for Red. After playing off a maiden over first up, Parthiv Patel was lbw to Dinda in the second over. Rohit Sharma, whose century against India Green helped Red to the final, was teased with deliveries outside off stump from Dinda, and the persistence paid off when he edged a drive to Virat Kohli at second slip.
Badrinath and M Vijay then played with caution to see off the new ball. The first ten overs brought just 25, but Vijay decided to step up the rate against a tiring Irfan Pathan in the 11th, taking a six and a four in an over that fetched 12. Aggression got the better of Vijay; trying to charge Trivedi and loft him over his head, he only nicked the ball to Dinesh Karthik.
Jaydev Shah was bowled off an inside edge, and Trivedi got his third when he foxed Abhishek Nayar with a slower delivery - committed to a back-foot drive, the batsman didn't middle it well and the ball lobbed to Kohli at cover.
It was time for Red to rebuild, but Badrinath lost another partner when Chawla's attempted strike over mid-on was caught by Chetanya Nanda, running back from mid-off. Badrinath, though, found support from Praveen. Badrinath scored just four from his first 20 deliveries, and relied on nudging the ball around for singles.
Praveen's entry put in some momentum; he hit Ashwin for a straight six and in the next over both he and Badrinath took boundaries off Nanda. Praveen went along at a good clip, but he was dismissed by a straighter one from Nanda. With the tailenders exposed, Badrinath had to keep the bulk of the strike. However, he departed soon after Praveen, beaten by an offspinner from R Ashwin as he attempted to cut the ball fine. Ashwin, with eight wickets, finished the top wicket-taker in the tournament.
Badrinath would have also expected quick wickets from Praveen in Blue's chase, but he and L Balaji failed to keep the runs in check to exert any pressure. Rahane started with two fours off consecutive deliveries from Praveen, though both shots weren't too convincing. The off-side driving was only to get better as Blue raced towards their target. Uthappa, the in-form batsmen for Blue, surprisingly had got just 7 off 20 balls in the first ten overs.
An attempted loft off Praveen didn't connect but still rolled to the boundary. However, with Chawla brought in the 13th over, Uthappa changed gears rigthtaway with ten runs off the first two deliveries. He then came down the track to hit medium-pacer Vinay Kumar, his Karnataka team-mate, for a six. After he fell, Kohli stroked his way to an unbeaten 35. Rahane brought up his half-century, in the process taking a six off Mohnish Parmar. He was trapped in front by the same bowler, leaving way, perhaps fittingly, for captain Yuvraj Singh to guide his team to victory.