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Gambhir flops, Mukund fires

The previous occasion Gautam Gambhir played in Nagpur, he was the centre of attraction of the cricketing globe. Though India lost that thrilling World Cup group tie against South Africa on March 12, Gambhir struck an impressive 69 against the likes of Steyn, Morkel and Kallis in front of overflowing stands at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium.

cricket Updated: Oct 10, 2011 23:35 IST
Amol Karhadkar

The previous occasion Gautam Gambhir played in Nagpur, he was the centre of attraction of the cricketing globe. Though India lost that thrilling World Cup group tie against South Africa on March 12, Gambhir struck an impressive 69 against the likes of Steyn, Morkel and Kallis in front of overflowing stands at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium.

On Monday, when Gambhir took guard after India Red were set a stiff target of 275 by India Blue in the opening tie of the Challenger Series, the pace he faced was nowhere near that of the South African trio. Also missing were the crowds at Jamtha, who again showed their apathy towards domestic cricket.

However, the cricket fraternity was keenly following Gambhir since the India opener — laid low by concussion in England — has been forced to play two 50-over games ahead of the opening ODI against England on Saturday.
Gambhir lasted six balls before playing one from Delhi teammate Pradeep Sangwan on to his stumps.

The Reds skipper now has Tuesday's outing against the Greens to put all the doubts over his fitness to rest. However, Abhinav Mukund, the left-hander who replaced him at the crease, showed no discomfiture at all as he struck a century to guide the Reds to a five-wicket victory.

Despite losing Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan, Mukund's partner in the record-breaking opening stand in last week's Irani Cup win, the Tamil Nadu batsman first saw off an impressive opening spell by Irfan Pathan, who forced Dhawan to hit one straight to short point in the opening over of the innings.

Though Mukund was going great guns, neither Yusuf Pathan nor Ashok Menaria could give him the much-needed support at the other end. Still, the in-form batsman looked in no trouble although his team was reeling at 116 for four.

At that stage, Wriddhiman Saha joined him at the crease and did the needful. By the time Mukund edged one from Sangwan to wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik, his 127 and his association of 147 with the Bengal 'keeper had sealed the fate of the match.