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India Red blow hot, bash Green to go top

cricket Updated: Oct 12, 2011 02:59 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
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With the mercury rising high over the last two days, the locals expected an odd shower at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium on the outskirts of Nagpur. But even the light drizzle at the stroke of the interval could not deter Abhinav Mukund as the left-hander assured India Red of their second win and a place in the final of the Challenger Series.

Backing up The opener ensured the splendid work of the bowlers, who bundled out India Green for 170 after they were 100 for no loss, did not go waste. His second splendid knock in as many days and his 100-run opening run stand with Gautam Gambhir gave the Reds an eight-wicket victory.

Chasing a revised target of 152 runs off 42 overs after rain halted the game for almost 80 minutes, the Reds cruised to the target in just 29 overs.

While Mukund carried on from where he had left against India Blue, the bowlers came up with a much improved performance than Monday.

Till Robin Uthappa was on song and a shaky Anirudha Srikkanth hung on at the other end, it looked like a high-scoring affair was on cards.

But it all changed after Uthappa threw his wicket away. Just after scoring a fluent fifty, Uthappa skied one off T Sudhindra to Pankaj Singh at long-on. And suddenly the pitch started doing tricks as the spin trio of Jalaj Saxena, Piyush Chawla and Yusuf Pathan forced the rest of the batsmen into false strokes, with the all-rounder rewarded the most.

However, the most sought-after spinner in the match - Greens skipper Harbhajan Singh - bore the brunt of Gambhir and Mukund. Having inspired Mumbai Indians to the Champions League Twenty20 title two nights ago, perhaps the Turbanator was too jaded. Or was the man who has been axed from India's first two ODIs against England not in the best frame of mind, thanks to a certain Mazhar Majeed?

Gambhir, on the other hand, seemed to be in a perfect frame of mind, especially after Md Kaif dropped a dolly in the seventh over. In the next over, the last before the interval, Harbhajan brought himself on and Gambhir went after him straight away, hitting a boundary and a six to either sides of the sight screen.

But Harbhajan's fortune didn't change even after the long break as Gambhir and Abhinav toyed with his bowling, plundering 32 runs off four overs.