Raina paves the way for India Blue
Oct 26: India Red in a must win situation against India Green today
Uttar Pradesh’s southpaw Suresh Raina staked his claim for the national side, after scoring a quick-fire 92 off just 100 balls, paving the way for India Blue to register a 12-run victory over India Red in the opening match of the Challenger Trophy at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera here on Thursday.
India Blue was in dire straits at 41 for four, after swashbuckling batsman Virender Sehwag got out early, when Raina held the fort and batted with composure. He shared a 87-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Niraj Patel (35) and then joined later by Joginder Sharma (27) to bail out India Blue reaching them to a respectable total of 246 in 49.3 overs.
Virender Sehwag captain of the India Blue team, who has been out of the squad, once again failed to get his act right. Sehwag started bit cautiously, but was soon caught in the covers at the score of 19 by S. Badrinath of Praveen Kumar.
Raina made a strong statement in front of the selectors by striking an elegant half-century, after being out of action for almost a year due to knee injury. He struck seven boundaries and two sixes during his patient knock.
Before Raina, Uttar Pradesh’s medium-pacer Praveen Kumar gave the opening blues to India blue team, as he was at his menacing best on yesterday exploiting the conditions quite well. He sent back Sehwag before cleaning up young Mumbai lad Ajinkya Rahane for a duck on the very first ball of the match.
Praveen’s third victim was Dinesh Kaarthick who departed just after Sehwag’s dismmisal in the very next ball. He was caught plumb in front as Praveen finished his impressive first spell with figures of 7-0-28-3.
Raina fell short of his century by just 8 runs as promising Delhi Ranji player Virat Kohli pulled off a brilliant catch, inches off the ground. The score was 202 for 7 at that time but a few extravagant shots later from Amit Mishra (29 not out from 31 balls) and Ramesh Powar (21 from 13 balls) took the score to 246.
Chasing the target of 247, India Red could reach 234 for eight in the stipulated 50 overs. Leggie Amit Mishra was the pick of the bowlers, as he picked up the wickets of prolific S Badrinath (41), who has been great form currently and promising Virat Kohli (30) with two brilliant googlies.
India Red’s chase got a setback in the first over itself as Gautam Gambhir fell short of his crease in his bid to steal a cheeky single. His Delhi opening partner Sehwag hit the stumps directly showing him the door.
Ravneet Ricky was next to go before skipper Mohammad Kaif and Kohli provided some resistance. Kaif (42) seemed set for a big innings but Swapnil Asnodkar snapped an incredible catch at short mid-wicket off Joginder Sharma to send him back to the dressing room.
Kohli then sewed a 35-run partnership with Badrinath before falling to Mishra's wrong one. The leg spinner later castled Badrinath in a similar fashion in the 38th over to put his team in the front seat.
Wicket-keeper batsman Manish Rawat (47) and Praveen Kumar (37 off 30 balls) kept the hopes alive for the Red’s till the end by adding 62 off 54 balls. But Suresh Raina caugh by Sehwag off Praveen brought the curtains for Red with 32 required in 22 balls.
India Red needed only 15 runs for a win from the last over with two wickets in hand. But once again Joginder Sharma rose to the occasion and conceded just 3 runs in the final over leading his team to victory.
India Red will take on India Green later in the day and for India Red, it is a must win situation to keep their hopes alive in the tournament.
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