Praveen Kumar Singh brought India Blue opener Ajinkya Rahane to his knees with the very first delivery of the match, the ball uprooting the off stump after clipping his pads. The India Red speedster struck again in the seventh over, sending back Virender Sehwag and Dinesh Karthik off successive deliveries, as the UltraTech Challenger Series for the NKP Salve trophy got off to a rousing start on Thursday.
The 22-year-old, who took nine wickets in his Ranji Trophy debut against Haryana in 2005, also sent back the dangerous looking Romesh Powar in his second spell to finish with figures of four for 42 as the India Blue were bowled out for 246 in 49.3 overs. Only Suresh Raina managed to keep the bowlers at bay, scoring a 100-ball 92, laced with seven boundaries and two sixes.
Local boys Siddharth Trivedi chipped in with three wickets for 52 runs while Shrikant Mundhe and Ishant Sharma chipped in with a wicket each for India Red. But it was Praveen who stole the show on the opening day, bowling a fiery spell and constantly probing the batsmen outside the off stump.
The hero of Uttar Pradesh's Ranji Trophy triumph in 2005 troubled Sehwag and finally induced the India Blue skipper into playing an uppish drive to S Badrinath at cover. The right-arm paceman, who has taken 90 wickets in his first two first-class seasons, then trapped Dinesh Karthik in front of the wicket to reduce them to 23 for 3.
That brought Raina to the crease. The left-hander, out of the national squad since January, managed to deny Praveen a hat-trick with a forward defence, before launching into a counter attack. The 21-year-old cut and pulled at will on a wicket initially not very conducive to stroke play as he began the slow rebuilding process.
With Trivedi sending Swapnil Asnodkar back to the pavilion with just 41 runs on board, it looked all over for India Blue, but Raina and Neeraj Patel kept their cool under pressure. While Patel was willing to graft his way, Raina was on the look out for runs and was not afraid to use his feet against the spinners as the pair put on 87 runs for the fifth wicket.
Raina celebrated his fifty off just 58-balls with a scorching six off Badrinath in the mid wicket stands in the 28th over, then sent Pragyan Ojha over the long on fence in the 33rd.
At the other end, Patel (35) was going steady before losing patience and fell, attempting to send left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha to the stands, holing out to Kaif at midwicket instead.
Raina then added another 49 runs for the sixth wicket with Joginder Sharma (27) and 25 runs for the seventh wicket with Amit Mishra (29 not out) before a miscued pull off Trivedi was well caught by Virat Kohli.
Mumbai's Powar scored a quickfire 21 off just 13 balls before he became Praveen Kumar's fourth wicket. Mundhe then trapped Yo Mahesh (1) and Ranadeb Bose's stumps were uprooted by Sharma to finish the innings with three balls remaining.