Abhinav, Saha shine in India Red win
India Red 275 for 5 (Abhinav 127, Saha 65*) beat India Blue 274 for 9 (Badrinath 56, Mandeep 50) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A well-paced century from Abhinav Mukund helped India Red successfully chase India Blue's 274 in the first match of the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy at Jamtha. Abhinav showed a great amount of patience and nerve in his innings, and helped India Red recover from a precarious 45 for 3. Giving him support was Wriddhiman Saha, who scored 65 not out.
The two showed composure in their 147-run partnership, relying on ones and twos to keep the scoreboard ticking rather than looking for the big shots. Abhinav, who is keen to show he can play the limited-overs forms of the game too, hit just 10 fours in his 127, while Saha had just three boundaries, all through sweeps, in his innings. Saha worked the spinners around well, while Abhinav hit some crisp strokes off the seamers late in his innings.
India Red were in trouble when the two came together. They had lost their opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir in the first two overs, and danger-man Yusuf Pathan skied one to mid-on in the eighth. Yusuf had hit four boundaries, ensuring India Red kept pace with the required run-rate, but they were in further trouble when Ashok Menaria was dismissed in bizarre circumstances in the 20th over. Menaria inside-edged a sweep off Pragyan Ojha, the ball hit the inside flap of his back pad and Dinesh Karthik reacted sharply to hold the catch.
Abhinav and Saha had to be watchful early, and the required run-rate rose to above 6 an over by the 32nd over. The two played risk-free cricket, yet managed to keep the asking-rate in check, and India Red got home with 2.3 overs to spare in the end. India Blue were not helped by some mediocre bowling. Irfan Pathan and Pradeep Sangwan could not kick on from the early wickets they took, and went at more than six an over, as did Pragyan Ojha. The relatively unknown seamer Yajuvendra Krishanatry looked insipid and was only given four overs, with S Badrinath bowling himself and M Vijay instead.
Abhinav and Saha's partnership made up for what had been a pretty sloppy effort from India Red in the field. Their left-arm seamers RP Singh and Jaydev Unadkat bowled far too wide of off stump from around the wicket and the India Blue batsmen carved them for boundaries through the off side. Paul Valthaty was the first to take advantage of the wayward line, hitting seven boundaries in his 36, before he was run out in a mix-up with Vijay. Badrinath's half-century was a more measured knock, but India Blue continued attacking through Manish Pandey. After hitting five fours and a six, Pandey eventually hit one down long-on's throat.
Thereafter, India Red's spinners started to choke the runs. Bhargav Bhatt, who had dismissed Pandey, deceived Badrinath in the flight and had him stumped. At 219 for 6 in the 45th over, India Blue needed a late surge, and it came from 19-year-old Mandeep Singh. Mandeep hit five fours and two sixes, including a perfectly-timed lofted extra-cover drive off Unadkat, to take India Blue to a competitive total. It looked like it would be enough until Abhinav and Saha's partnership.