Despite the heroics of Abhinav Mukund, Robin Uthappa and Anirudha Srikkanth with the willow, none of the three league games of the Challenger Series for NKP Salve Trophy saw a close finish.
That disappointment was more than made up in the final as India Red and India Green produced a thrilling tie at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium on Thursday.Had it not been for Piyush Chawla's outstanding 85-ball 92, the final would have been a dull affair. With the Reds reeling at 131 for six, with the long tail to bat with Chawla, a target of 239 seemed out of reach.
However, the Uttar Pradesh all-rounder displayed a perfect effort of batting with the tail to retain strike for a better part of the last 15 overs and come up with a big shot every time and again.
Even though Chawla had surpassed his fifty, with Reds requiring 46 runs off the last five overs, and 10th man Bhargav Bhatt to accompany him, Harbhajan Singh's Greens seemed to be well on course for a victory.
However, Chawla's two boundaries off Samad Fallah in the 46th over hinted that a close finish was on cards. And when the left-hander lofted Abhimanyu Mithun, the pick of the Greens' bowlers, straight over his head using his wrist in the next over, the panic on Harbhajan's and his teammates' face was evident. Left to achieve a difficult task of 17 runs off the last over with the last man for company, Chawla almost made it before he was run out off a wide, leaving the match tied with a ball left.