The Yuvraj Singh-led India Blue won the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, beating the domestic 50-over champions, Delhi, led by Virat Kohli, by 50 runs in Indore today.
India Blue won their 3rd consecutive match in the short tournament. Indian team regular Bhuvneshwar Kumar grabbed the Man of the Match award in the final for his tally of 9-1-39-4, which included the wickets of Unmukt Chand and Gautam Gambhir.
Chasing a challenging 275, Delhi faltered earlier in the innings when Gautam Gambhir was dismissed trying to play one shot too many, caught by Manish Pandey. Unmukt Chand, the centurion in the previous match against India Red, was the next to follow as a peach of a delivery from Bhuvneshwar Kumar jagged back and disturbed the stumps.
Not short of stars in the line-up, Virender Sehwag came to the crease next and was dismissed after a single shot to the fence, missing a straight delivery from Vinay Kumar, which pegged back his middle stump.
Virat Kohli and Milind Kumar tried to stabilise the ship, with the former looking in good touch and hitting some sweet drives on both sides of the wicket. However, in the 10th over, a terrible miscommunication in the middle of the pitch and a direct hit by Vinay Kumar following a diving save by the bowler resulted in the dismissal of Kohli.
This was the turning point of the match as Delhi star-studded top 4 was back in the pavilion with just 46 runs on the board at the end of the 10th over.
Milind Kumar and Rajat Bhatia added 74 runs for the 5th wicket but found the going tough as the asking rate closed in on the 7-mark. Piyush Chawla accounted for the wickets of both batsmen and Varun Sood was trapped in front of the wicket by Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
It was a lost cause for Delhi when Indian team discard, Ashish Nehra, provided some late entertainment with lusty hits out of the park. Nehra, after a history of being a dummy with the bat on the international stage, left some shocked faces on the field as well off it, with some meaty blows off the middle of his bat.
His short cameo of 13-ball-24, including 3 hits over the rope, ended when Yuvraj Singh caught a miscued shot off Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Vinay Kumar returned to wrap up the innings, dismissing the tail shortly. Delhi’s innings ended at 224 after 44.4 overs, 50 runs short of the champions.
Earlier, Manish Pandey and Piyush Chawla ensured a competitive total for India Blue, who chose to bat first after winning the toss.
Pandey was accompanied in his 62-run vigil by valuable contributions from Akshath Reddy (22), Naman Ojha (33) and Yuvraj Singh (29).
Yuvraj, aiming for a comeback into the national squad, was wrongly adjudged out when the delivery from Rajat Bhatia, pitching outside leg-stump, hit him on the pads in front of the wicket.
Piyush Chawla (42), Ankit Bawne (37) and Vinay Kumar (17) gave the late push the India Blue innings, collecting 48 runs in the last 5 overs.
The Challenger Trophy was an opportunity for the Indian team probables to impress the selectors, and among the seniors, Yuvraj Singh has been the most impressive.
The domestic scene now shifts to Shimoga in Karnataka where the 2nd unofficial Test will take place from 2nd October. Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan have been included in the India A squad and will look to fight for a spot in the national side.