Defending a total of 246 runs, India Blue bowlers kept a tight leash and took wickets at regular interval to register a 12-run win over India Red in the opening match of the UltraTech Challenger Series for the NKP Salve trophy.
Amit Mishra was the pick of the bowlers surprising the set S Badrinath (41) and Virat Kohli (30) with two brilliant googlies.
India Red began the chase on a disastrous note with the in-form Gautam Gambhir failed to beat a direct hit by Virender Sehwag while trying to steal a non-existent single. Ravneet Ricky also followed suit before skipper Mohammad Kaif and Kohli began the recovery.
Kaif (42) looked set for a big innings but Swapnil Asnodkar snapped an unbelievable catch at short mid-wicket off Joginder Sharma to send him back. Kohli then stitched a 35-run partnership with Badrinath before falling to Mishra's guile. The leg spinner then castled Badrinath in a similar fashion in the 38 th over to put his team in the driver's seat.
Red's challenge was kept alive by wicketkeeper Manish Rawat (47) and Praveen Kumar (37 off 30 balls) who added 62 off 54 balls. But once Praveen was caught by Suresh Raina off Sehwag, it was curtains for Red with 32 required in 22 balls.
Earlier, man of the match Raina cut and pulled at will on a wicket that was initially not very conducive to stroke play and led Blue on the recovery path with a 87 runs partnership with Niraj Patel (35) for the fifth wicket. The southpaw celebrated his fifty with a scorching six off Badrinath at mid wicket and then sent Pragyan Ojha over the long on fence. He was out eight runs short of a well deserved century when a miscued pull off Siddharth Trivedi was well caught by Kohli on the mid wicket fence.
Mumbai's Ramesh Powar, who replaced Raina, scored a quickfire 21 off 13 balls before he became Praveen's fourth wicket. Local boy Trivedi also chipped in with three wickets for 52 runs.
The match got off to a rousing start as Praveen brought India Blue opener Ajinkya Rahane on his knees with the very first delivery, the ball uprooting the batsman's off stump after clipping his pads. The speedster struck again in the seventh over sending back Sehwag and Dinesh Karthik of successive deliveries.
The 22-year-old, who took nine wickets in his Ranji Trophy debut against Haryana in 2005-06, made the most of skipper Sehwag's generosity who chose to bat on a wicket that had something in it for the seamers early on. He bowled with considerable pace and made the ball move in both directions and finished with figures of 4 for 42.
The hero of Uttar Pradesh's Ranji trophy triumph in 2005 troubled Sehwag outside the off stump and finally induced him into playing an uppish drive to Badrinath at cover. Praveen then trapped Karthik leg before the very next delivery to reduce them to 23-3.
That brought Raina to the crease and he almost single handedly changed the tempo of the match.