Cuttack:India Red middle-order crumbled at a time when they were looking to settle the issue, as India Blue, helped by a fine effort by off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, registered a 49-run win in the Challenger Series for NKP Salve Trophy at Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on Thursday night.
When it all seemed that the Red will score an easy win with Murali Vijay blazing all guns off-spinner Ashwin brought in the turn around taking the wicket of his Tamil Nadu teammate. Vijay showed that he is a new kid on the block with a fine knock of 89.
He faced 107 balls which was studded with nine boundaries and two sixes. With the Three Wise Men of Indian cricket -- national selectors Narendra Hirwani (Central), Surendra Bhave (West) and Raja Venkat (East) -- watching from the pavillion end, Vijay completed his half-century with a towering six over mid-on.
He did not stop there as the Tamil Nadu batsman followed it up with back-to-back boundaries as Siddharth Trivedi conceeded 14 runs in his sixth over. Having just bowled a maiden to Tiwary, Vijay deformed the impressive figures of Trivedi whose bowling read 6-1-27-1.
With 129 required from 26 overs, a visibly tense-looking Yuvraj chose to give Trivedi a break and instead took the bowling responsibility in his hand. But the duo of Tiwary and Vijay began to score important runs taking singles and doubles in the middle as they stiched 50 runs for the fifth wicket.
When it looked like the match is going to get over soon with runs flowing from Vijay's blade, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin gave the breakthrough putting an end to the fifth wicket partnership that fetched Red 78 runs.
Looking for another six over mid-on, a stepped-out Vijay found Sangwan in the path as the Tamil Nadu batsman departed having made 89 to give his team some hope.
Abhishek Nayar and Praveen Kumar followed suit as Red began to see black as the required run-rate crept past the psychological six-mark with the scorecard reading 158 for seven in 37.3 overs.
Following a brief resistance fetching 17 runs and seeing off 20 deliveries, Vinay Kumar made an exit courtesy Nanda. Balaji followed suit adding just one run to the total as the scores read 178 for nine with Tiwary battling it out with Mohnish Parmar.
Strike bowlers Irfan Pathan and Pradeep Sangwan gave Blue the right start taking two quick wickets as the Red were down two for 27 in 5.5 overs. Parthiv was unimpressive in his 12-ball stay that earned the team six runs, which included one four which came in the very first ball of Irfan's first over.
But the Baroda medium pacer was quick to get his rhythm back, deceiving Parthiv in his very second over. Looking to drive through mid-off, Parthiv just managed to find the bowler who took a low catch to give Blue the first breakthrough.
Delhi pacer Sangwan matched his senior and in fact was more tidy with the bowling as his first spell of six overs conceede just 17 runs with the wicket of Piyush Chawla. Red skipper Subramaniam Badrinath surprised everybody sending leggie Chawla into the middle and the UP spinner started off with a huge six over mid-on.
Having hit that six, Chawla could survive just one more ball as in the second ball Sangwan brought an end to the innings of leg-spinner who scored a run-a-ball nine. Meanwhile, Murali Vijay remained unperturbed and held on to the innings at the other end as skipper Badrinath joined his Tamil Nadu teammate in the middle.
With the burden of 236 on his shoulder, Badrinath looked watchful and began cautiously. In fact, the skipper handed Sangwan a maiden over in the 10th over of the innings as Badrinath tried to get a feel of the pitch.
But just when Badrinath looked to settle down hitting Robin Uthappa for a boundary, a fine move by Yuvraj who brought on Chetanya Nanda paid divident.
Nanda, here in Challengers in place of Mohali Test fiver Amit Mishra, lived up to the expectation as the legspinner foxed Badrinath with a straighter one. Badrinath made a quiet exit having contributed 10 (25 balls) to the total with the scorecard reading 63 for three from 15.4 overs.
With the required run rate just breaking the five mark, all hopes rested on Rohit Sharma. But the real suprise came from Siddharth Trivedi in the very next over.
The Gujarat seamer lured Sharma with a fuller one and the Mumbai batsman flicked it over mid wicket where Ravinder Singh took a stunning diving catch as Badrinath & Co saw red with the scorecard giving a jarring 66 for four in 16.6 overs.
Tiwary may be known for his fiery batting, but the Bengal batsman, taking a cue from Vijay, chose to bide time as Trivedi bowled a maiden in his fourth over.
Earlier, India ODI discard Robin Uthappa made a bold start while Irfan Pathan gave a push to the score chipping in with a quickfire 43 late down the order to guide India Blue to 235 for nine in the stipulated 50 overs.