Yuvraj, Nayar blitz India Blue into final
India Blue 345 for 4 (Yuvraj 84, Nayar 75) beat India Red 334 (Mukund 83, Smit 68, Vinay 4-76) by 11 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India Blue nosed ahead in a high-scoring encounter against India Red to seal a place in the final of the Challenger Trophy. Blistering half-centuries from captain Yuvraj Singh - returning from a bout of back spasms which forced him to miss the first match - and Abhishek Nayar ushered India Blue to a daunting 345 in 50 overs. Abhinav Mukund and Smit Patel kept India Red in the hunt and despite a stumble in the end, a cameo from Umesh Yadav made it a tight finish.
Yuvraj took full toll of a pressure-free situation - India Blue were 176 for 2 when he arrived at the crease - to settle into a punishing innings. His first boundary required 16 balls, but in the next ten that followed his boundary tally swelled to five, including a six over deep midwicket off seamer Suraj Yadav. The half-century came off 35 deliveries and Yuvraj briefly entertained a tryst with a century, but while looking to retain strike he was run-out. The wicket also ended a mammoth 151-run stand for the fourth wicket with Nayar, off only 78 balls.
Nayar, the man who had sent Yuvraj back, could have endured stern repercussions, if not for matching his captain's belligerence with an unbeaten 39-ball 75. With little over 14 overs left, Nayar struck two crisp fours through the off side to kickstart his innings. His fluency against pace - epitomised by two scooped sixes - ensured India Blue's total ballooned to almost 350. Credit is also due to Akshath Reddy, whose steady 84 prefaced the onslaught.
"We wanted to stay until the end," said Yuvraj, "And my plan was to bat till the 45th over and go after that and luckily Nayar's been in great form and he carried on. I think he batted better than me and he took us very close to 350"
He was aware of the proximity of a second List A ton in two weeks. "I wanted to [get a century] but Nayar didn't take the second run but obviously if he had run, maybe he could've gotten out. I'm just happy with the way I'm hitting the ball and looking to carry on"
The chase proved thrilling once again, with Smit Patel - going strong on 68 - having to exit due to cramps in the 33rd over. India Red were 176 for 2 at the time, mainly thanks to a 134-run partnership between Smit and Abhinav Mukund, who made 83 off 86 balls. But with the asking-rate rising toward 10 per over, wickets began to tumble.
Kedhar Jadhav, Ishank Jaggi and Gurkeerat Singh contributed vital hands as India Red maneuvered past 300 in the 47th over. No. 11 Yadav hoisted Bhuvneshwar Kumar over midwicket and meted out the same treatment to R Vinay Kumar in the final over and when he fell, for 19 off eight balls, Smit walked back out to the field to overcome an equation that read 13 off three, but it was not to be. Vinay Kumar dismissed Shahbaz Nadeem to signal victory and ended up with four for 76.
Patel said it was frustrating that he couldn't carry on and see his team through. "While keeping, I felt it (cramps) towards the end but it used to go away," Patel told the Indian Express. "The pain started when I was batting in the 30s, and it got worse when I tried or pushed hard. The cramps kept coming and going. After the sweep shot, I was in terrible pain and just couldn't stand. It just got stuck. I couldn't walk, run or do anything else."
India Red will now turn their attention to a virtual semi-final against Delhi on Saturday, when the latter will be bolstered by the presence of Gautam Gambhir, who has returned from his stint with Essex.
Hi friends, reached home. Will be off to Indore tonight for challenger series. Enjoy ur day. Take care.— Gautam Gambhir (@GautamGambhir) September 27, 2013