Saturday, October 10, 2009

Big win takes India Blue to final

50 overs India Blue 351 for 2 (Jaffer 143, Mukund 114) beat India Green (Srivastava 100, Anirudha 63) by 88 runs

A 265-run opening stand - the highest such partnership in the Challenger Trophy - between Wasim Jaffer and Abhinav Mukund flattened India Green and carried India Red into the final. Jaffer top-scored with a run-a-ball 143 and Mukund continued his amazing run of form with 114 as Red put up a mammoth total of 351 for 2. After Tanmay Srivastava and Srikkanth Anirudha added a century opening stand in good time, Red meandered without much purpose and ended up with 263 for 9.

After Blue opted to bat, Mukund and Jaffer played out the first four overs quietly. In the fifth, bowled by Vikramjeet Malik, they took 18 and increased the rate from there on. Dhawal Kulkarni, who began very tidily, should have had Jaffer on 28 but dropped an easy return catch during a maiden ninth over. Kulkarni lost his line hereon and Jaffer went on to cross his half-century off off 59 balls. Mukund's half-century came up off 71 balls.

The pair batted very well in tandem, taking smart singles and rotating the strike. They maintained a constant run-rate and eased past the 200 mark in the 34th over just after Mukund was put down by Suresh Raina on 80.

When Mukund fell at the end of the 41st over, MS Dhoni strode out and hit a breezy unbeaten 34 from 25 balls, while Yusuf Pathan biffed 34 from 18 to further deflate the attack. Malik, who opened the attack for Green, bore the brunt of the powerful Red batting. His first three overs cost 32, his fourth went for 11, and when he came back for a third spell after 42 overs Dhoni and Pathan took him apart. Malik had the most expensive figures of the innings (7-0-81-0), and none of the overs bowlers, apart from Anirudha, went for less than 5.60.

The chase lost steam after the first 15 overs, at which time Red were 96 for 0. Until here Anirudha led the scoring with 56 from 44 balls, but Harbhajan Singh got him to drag one on soon after. Harbhajan and Yusuf Pathan tied down proceedings well and Srivastava shut shop and appeared content to play out the overs. He was sixth out at 237 for a 133-ball 100, after which Red went on to finish on 263 for 9. Once Anirudha was dismissed there seemed no conscious effort to even attempt to chase down a massive target.

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