Sudeep Tyagi and Munaf Patel blew away India Blue for a paltry 84 before the India Red batsmen knocked off the target without much fuss to lift the Challenger Trophy in Nagpur.
Tyagi started the demolition job with a fine spell of seam bowling. He was off radar during the Irani Cup, often bowling very short, but he was on song from the first ball today. He varied from back of a length to full and punctuated his offcutters with the one that straightened outside off. Tyagi struck first ball with a peach of a delivery that pegged back from outside off to knock out the off stump of Naman Ojha, who had shouldered arms.
He then got one to cut back in from a fuller length to nail SS Kumar in front before troubling Harbhajan Singh with his bouncing offcutters from short of a length. Suddenly, he hurled one fuller to catch Harbhajan on the crease and knocked out off stump. If Tyagi can consistently reprise his today's efforts, he will be knocking on the selectors' doors.
Those three wickets had broken Blue's back and Munaf, who bowled first change today, settled in his rhythm quickly to cause further havoc. There is an opening in the Indian team and Munaf, sensing that, has been bowling really well right from the Irani Cup. Today, again, he operated at his best. He again hit the full length and found enough movement, nothing visually alarming but just enough, to cause trouble.
He probed Wasim Jaffer's weakness on the front foot by repeatedly drawing the batsman forward before he sneaked one in to get an lbw verdict. Yusuf Pathan gifted his wicket to Munaf with a fatal drive to mid-off and Abhishek Nayar dragged one from outside off onto the stumps. Munaf went on to collect Sreesanth's wicket with a bouncer though it appeared to have gone off the arm guard for a catch behind the wicket.
The third seamer, Ishant Sharma, tried to hit a fuller length but offered enough width outside off time and again to relieve the pressure but R Ashwin, the offspinner, bowled well to prevent Blue from breaking free. He beat Dhoni in flight and induced an airy drive to mid-off before he harassed Nayar with his off breaks and straighter ones. Nayar never looked comfortable against Ashwin and threw his wicket away to Munaf. Ashwin grew in confidence and even slipped in a carrom ball which squared-up Jalaj Saxena though didn't get him a wicket. Ishant returned to terminate the innings with a double strike.
Shikhar Dhawan and M Vijay got Red off to a steady start, negotiating a good spell from Sreesanth. Vijay, who was dropped by Ojha off Sreesanth when he pushed at a length delivery that shaped away, fell to Harbhajan but Dhawan hung around long enough to ensure the target would be reached without much alarm.