India Blue hold nerve to clinch thriller
Suresh Kumar's 87 proved decisive, as India Blue held on for a thrilling one-wicket win against India Red at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur. Suresh was the lynchpin even as wickets kept falling around him, playing a big hand in ensuring victory. Ashok Dinda, though, had the final word. Having picked three wickets earlier, he hit the boundary which sealed the match in Blues' favour after they needed seven off the last over with just the one wicket in hand.
The chase was well-planned, as Suresh played the anchor's role to perfection, even as Ishant Sharma struck at either ends of the innings. Harbhajan Singh, promoted to No.3 after a good day with the ball, lent good support with a run-a-ball 36. When captain MS Dhoni departed for 37 with the score 161 for 5, the match was tantalisingly poised.
Suresh continued to graft away and soon brought up his fifty in style, clubbing Sudeep Tyagi over long-on for a six. With Jalaj Saxena and Yusuf Pathan departing soon, he was running fast out of partners, though the equation was firmly in Blues' favour. Two fours in Ishant's ninth over had them in sight of the finish line, yet a final sting in the tale remained. Looking for a quick finish, Suresh mishit a slower one from Ishant and Ravindra Jadeja made no mistake running in from mid-on. That was the end of the 47th over.
The task could not have looked more imposing, with 12 required off 18 and Dinda and Siddharth Trivedi to come. Munaf Patel, who otherwise had a day to forget, struck in his penultimate over, rearranging Sreesanth's stumps with the second ball. Ishant followed the act, giving away four in the 49th over.
The Red captain S Badrinath was a nervous man, as Munaf ran in for his final over. A full delivery first up was hit in the air over cover by Dinda, and the batsmen sneaked a couple. A short ball followed, which was pulled along the ground through midwicket for another two. Another terrible delivery from Munaf wa unpardonable, and Dinda pulled it in the air behind square leg to the fence to seal the win.
For close to 35 overs, Red held the reins and looked good to reach 300-plus. However, the Blue bowlers pulled things back to bowl them out for a sub-par 248 inside 45 overs on a good batting track. Harshad Khadiwale and Ishank Jaggi made brisk half-centuries but the lower order failed to build on that platform.
Red were powered by a solid start from their openers M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan. Vijay scored at over a run a ball but fell when giving Harbhajan the charge, Naman Ojha snapping up the inside edge. Dhawan's dismissal was very similar, and it was a smart move by Ojha to stand up for the seamer Trivedi, who cut back on his pace to keep the batsmen in check. Red stumbled further when Badrinath was run out after a terrible mix-up and some repair work was needed. Khadiwale and Jaggi stepped up with a stand of 49 for the fourth wicket. Khadiwale fell shortly after getting to his fifty, tamely mistiming a pull off Dinda.
Jaggi, the right-hander from Jharkhand, maintained the momentum with a brisk innings that included five fours and a six. However, he failed to push on after reaching his fifty, edging Yusuf Pathan to Ojha while attempting a cut. Blue continued to chip away at the wickets - even Dhoni rolled his arm over and picked up a wicket - and Red looked in danger of not lasting their full quota of overs. By the time they took the batting Powerplay in the 45th over, they had already lost nine wickets. Harbhajan was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3 for 40. But the real drama would pan out in the next 50 overs.