Munaf Patel is fast turning out to be an enigma that's hard to decipher. Once termed as the fastest bowler in India, the bowler from Ikhar has not only lost pace but also the nip that made him so dangerous.
Having single-handedly scripted Mumbai's surrender in the Irani Cup, Munaf was expected to hit peak form in the ongoing UltraTech Challenger Series for the NKP Salve Trophy. But the 25-year-old looked completely out of place on Friday, bowling just around the 125 kmph mark and conceded 81 runs from his 10 overs.
With their strike bowler off colour, India Green were found wanting in the bowling department and they were never in with a chance after conceding 303. India Red opener Gautam Gambhir (73) and middle order batsman S Badrinath (82 not out off 79 balls) justified their captain's decision to bat first and made the bowlers pay for their insipid display.
Praveen Kumar then sent half of Green back to the pavilion for just 41runs to help his team register a 88 run win.
Munaf, who has been in and out of the team due to injuries since the tour of South Africa in January, began with a wide on the leg side and Praveen drove him to the extra cover fence on the very next. A couple of doubles in between and the Uttar Pradesh batsman latched on to another long hop to sent the ball sailing in the stands at long on.
His rhythm upset, Munaf hardly troubled any batsman and by the time skipper Parthiv Patel ended his misery by making a bowling change, he had conceded 35 runs in his first four-over spell.
Gambhir took a special liking for Munaf carting him for a couple of fours. The opener, who had missed out on Thursday night in the team's loss to India Blue, scored a run a ball 73 with seven fours before holing out to Manoj Tiwary while attempting to send Piyush Chawla into the stands.
Badrinath then joined the party, reaching his half century in 62 balls. He then launched into an all-out attack as India Red scored 64 runs in the last five overs, with the batsman clearing the fine leg boundary with an unorthodox scoop.
Praveen, who had taken four wickets against India Blue, sent Green openers Cheteshwar Pujara and Yousuf Pathan back with just 28 runs on board. Parthiv showed some spark but was caught at fine leg by Pragyan Ojha off Sidharth Trivedi to reduce them to 36-3.
Rohit Sharma (11) and Manoj Tiwary (65) then began the rebuilding process but just when Sharma looked set for a big innings, he tried an ambitious pull off Trivedi and Gambhir made no mistake at mid-wicket.
Praveen then induced a knick off Tiwary for his third scalp of the match and though Abhishek Nayar and Iqbal Abdulla chipped in with 29 and 26 respectively, it just delayed the inevitable.
P. Kumar c P. Patel b Pankaj Singh 15
G. Gambhir c Tiwary b Piyush Chawla 73
M. Kaif c P. Patel b Pankaj Singh 8
K. Goel b R. Sharma 33
S. Badrinath not out 82
V. Kohli st P. Patel b Abdulla 40
Paresh Patel c Pathan b Abdulla 22
M. Rawat b M. Patel 13
S. Trivedi not out 1
Extras (lb-4, w-11, nb-1) 16
Total (7 wkts; 50 overs) 303
Fall of wkts: 1-18, 2-62, 3-131, 4-139, 5-224, 6-268, 7-294.
Bowling: M. Patel 10-0-81-1, Pankaj Singh 8-2-37-2, A. Nayar 2-0-13-0, Y. Pathan 10-0-41-0, I. Abdulla 10-0-54-2, R. Sharma 2-0-4-1, Piyush Chawla 8-0-69-1.
Pujara b Kumar 7
YK Pathan b Kumar 0
PA Patel c Ojha b Trivedi 19
R Sharma c Gambhir b Trivedi 11
M Tiwary c Rawat b Kumar 65
N Behera b Ojha 12
AM Nayar lbw b Sharma 29
Piyush Chawla c Goel b Kaif 26
I Abdulla not out 12
Pankaj Singh b Kumar 25
M Patel lbw b Kumar 0
Extras (lb 1, w 7, nb 1) 9
Total (all out; in 47 overs) 215
Fall of wkts: 1-6, 2-28, 3-36, 4-67, 5-101, 6-135, 7-176, 8-178, 9-215, 10-215.
Bowling: P Kumar 9 0-45-5, I Sharma 9-0-37-1, S Trivedi 8-2-32-2, P Ojha 10-0-41-1, P Patel 4-0-22-0, K Goel 3-0-14-0, M Kaif 4-0-23-1.