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Red’s Uthappa spells blues for Blue

Robin Uthappa cracked an unbeaten 157 and Yuvraj Singh took three crucial wickets as Air India Red clinched the BCCI Corporate Trophy, beating Air India Blue by 93 runs at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

cricket Updated: Sep 09, 2009 00:09 IST
G Krishnan

It has been more than a year since Robin Uthappa played for India. Indifferent form in the ODIs led to his ouster from MS Dhoni’s side. But, on Tuesday, the Bangalore right-hander could not have asked for a better platform to announce his return to form in front of three of the five national selectors.

West Zone’s Surendra Bhave, Yashpal Sharma from North and Central Zone’s Narendra Hirwani, who is also the coach of Air India (Red) applauded Uthappa’s match-winning 157 not out (148b, 11x4, 6x6) in an all-Air India final. Uthappa’s error-free ton helped Red defeat Blue by 93 runs and lift the inaugural BCCI Corporate Trophy at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Defending an imposing 284 for eight, Red shot out Blue for 191 in 41.5 overs, largely caused by captain Yuvraj, who took two wickets in his first two deliveries --- Md. Kaif leg-before wicket and the most-important one of Dhoni, who tapped back to the bowler for a return catch. Yuvraj, with three wickets for 30 in 10 overs, made up for his dismal show with the willow.

The Red have always had at least one top-order batsman to see their innings through. Sent in to bat --- a first for Red in the tournament as they have only chased in their previous games --- Yuvraj Singh’s team had the 23-year-old Uthappa to anchor the innings, which was paced brilliantly --- cautious when the wickets fell regularly after short but effective partnerships and aggressively with dazzling strokes when the ball begged to be hit.

Having seen his opening partner, Naman Ojha fall for a second-ball duck, Uthappa eased himself into the role of a sheet anchor in the company of in-form Sushant Marathe (36). Marathe set the ball rolling for Red, launching into a series of attacks on Pankaj Singh, whose length left a lot to be desired.

Contrary to Pankaj was the India left-armer R.P. Singh, who forced Marathe and Uthappa onto the back foot with a length that was neither too short nor full. Marathe, continuing from his match-winning 80 in the semifinal, smashed Pankaj all over. He smashed his confidence too as the tall Rajasthan pacer had a miserable opening spell of 4-0-31-0. RP’s, on the other hand, read 5-1-13-1.

Uthappa simply concentrated on the task at hand. Reserving his best till the last and in the vicinity of national skipper Dhoni, Uthappa has not done his prospects any harm.

Even as Yuvraj — who was too cautious and defensive in his 39-ball 17 — and Suresh Raina (24) got starts that they could not build on, Uthappa held firm. There was a lull for a while when he approached his century. After reaching the milestone, he shifted gears, disturbing the bowling figures of not only the India bowlers leaving for Sri Lanka on Wednesday but also humiliating the others.

RP’s impressive opening spell allowed him to finish with a decent one for 37 in 10 overs while captain Harbhajan Singh had four for 55 in 10, his only top-order wicket being Marathe’s who top-edged the India offie to Dhoni at short fine leg.