Orissa Cricket Association’s idea of papering the walls of the Barabati Stadium for the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy was a Diwali gift for the near-capacity turnout that responded to the bonanza.
They had started to come in and fill the stands even when India Green, who did not have a match on Thursday, had not finished their morning practice session. But that hardly mattered as they had come to see players they see on television perform live.
For most of the first session of the opener between India Blue and Red, every move by the familiar faces on the ground was cheered.
But that was about. There were hardly any sparks that flew during the Reds chase as they made a hash of it losing four wickets for 66 runs including those of S. Badrinath, Parthiv Patel and Rohit Sharma within 17 overs.
Manoj Tiwary coming in at No 6 looked shaky but then managed to stitch together a 78-run stand with opener Murali Vijay. But once Vijay got out after scoring 89 off 107 balls (9x4, 2x6), the chase was virtually over. In the end, Blues won by 49 runs and earned a bonus point.
Earlier, after cruising to 87 without loss, Yuvraj Singh's Blues finished their 50 overs at 235 for nine, well short of what the opening duo of Robin Uthappa and Ajinkya Rahane had set the tone for. Blues lost their way when Yuvraj, Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik fell one after another.
Uthappa's race to 94 off 106 balls was the hallmark of the Blues innings. With nine fours and a huge six off Piyush Chawla, who had his first spell cut to two overs after he had conceded 22 runs, Uthappa survived a stumping chance on 35 after having clobbered the leg-spinner on the previous ball. He was dismissed when he tried to pull Rohit Sharma but failed to get the elevation.