Abhinav Mukund of India Red acknowledges after hitting a century against India Blue. (PTI)
Nagpur: Abhinav Mukund smashed a sparkling century as India Red recorded a comprehensive five-wicket victory over India Blue in the opening match of the NKP Salve Challenger Series here on Monday.
Mukund (127) held one end together for most part of the India Red's chase of 275-run target after his side were reduced to 15 for two in the second over as openers Shikhar Dhawan (3) and Gautam Gambhir (11) departed early.
Coming at one-down with team's score at six for one, Mukund stitched two substantial partnerships - 71 with Ashok Menaria (19) for the fourth wicket and 147 with wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha (65 not out) for the fifth wicket from 26.1 overs to take India Red to victory with 15 balls to spare at VCA Stadium at Jamtha here.
Mukund, who struck 10 fours from the 133 balls he faced, found an able ally in Saha as the duo took the match away from India Red's grasp with a solid batting display after coming together in the 21st over. Saha's 80-ball unbeaten innings included just three fours.
India Red skipper Gambhir, who will be playing couple of round robin matches in order to gear up for ODI series against England, fell cheaply bowled by Pradeep Sangwan after facing six balls. His opening partner Dhawan was the first to go dismissed by Irfan Pathan in the fifth ball of the innings.
Yusuf Pathan and Maneria contributed 22 and 19 respectively and it was left to Mukund and Saha to score the bulk of the runs for his side to win the match.
Mukund was out in the 47th over with just 12 runs away from the target and Saha ensured that there was no hiccup as India Red reached 275 for five.
For India Blue, Sangwan was the most successful bowler, taking three wickets for 61 runs while Irfan Pathan and Pragyan Ojha chipped in with a wicket apiece.
This was the first domestic limited overs match that is being played under the new ICC rules where two new balls are being used from two ends in each innings.
Earlier, a gritty 56 by skipper Subramanium Badrinath and a quickfire half century from young Mandeep Singh helped India Blue post a competitive 274 for eight after they were put in to bat.
The find of IPL Paul Valthaty playing his first major List A match (second in his career) was in attacking mood scoring 36 off only 39 deliveries with the help of seven boundaries. He played and missed a few but was severe on Rudra Pratap Singh who looked woefully out of form.
RP wasn't brought back for a second spell after he leaked 31 runs in his first four overs. He repeatedly tried to use the short ball and Valthaty would rock back to pull him through the mid-wicket region.
He was unfortunately run-out after a mix-up with Murali Vijay (26, 50 balls). Vijay looked totally out of sorts as he tried to hit over mid-on but the ball ballooned to Shikhar Dhawan at backward point.
Dinesh Karthik (13) was done in by a Piyush Chawla googly but Badrinath and Manish Pandey (45) steadied the ship with a fourth wicket opartnership that yielded 81 runs. While Badrinath who played 80 deliveries was happy to take the singles and twos, Pandey played some audacious aerial strokes including a six off left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt.
Pandey was dismissed five shy of a well deserved half century when he miscued a flighted delivery from Bhatt to Menaria. Badrinath followed Pandey as he was stumped off Bhatt's bowling.
Mandeep who smashed 50 off only 38 balls hit a couple of big sixes off Pankaj Singh and Jaidev Unadkat respectively.