Rohit Sharma's unconquered century powered India Red to a five-wicket win over India Green in the second match of the NKP Salve trophy Challenger series at Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on Friday night.
With this win, India Red bounced back into tournament after suffering a 49-run defeat against defending champions India Blue earlier on Thursday.
Chasing a target of 261 runs, India Red batted with a plan to clinch the victory with seven balls to spare. Sharma's unconquered 117 off 120 deliveries which included 13 fours and two sixes was easily the innings that created difference between the two sides.
India Green will take on India Blue in the last league clash on Saturday. It will be followed by the final on Sunday.
India Red innings had a shaky start with FY Fazal (15) shown an early exit. The team's desperate bid to make it to the final was kept afloat by Rohit Sharma's superb century. He was supported well by M Vijay who appeared to be heading for another good knock in the tournament before being dismissed by M Parmar on 45.
Sharma's role in developing two effective partnerships of 75 and 60 runs with Vijay and captain Badrinath gave India Red a strong launching pad for victory.
Badrinath's quest for a big knock failed once again as he departed after making 27.
The talent of much talked about Manoj Tiwary failed to blossom again as he fell cheaply. But Abhisek Nayar proved to be an able ally for Sharma and the duo ensured victory for their side.
Earlier, Madhya Pradesh batsman-keeper Naman Vinay Kumar Ojha's well-planned 96 enabled India Green to set a daunting target of 261 for India Red.
Electing to bat first, India Green, made 260 for nine in 50 overs. Two sizeable partnerships involving Ojha, Shikhar Dhawan (45) and Suresh Raina (58) carried the Greens to a commanding position before the excellent work by the top order raised the hopes of the side mustering a 300-plus total.
But the possibility went in vain as seven wickets tumbled for just 63 runs.
Facing a must win situation after their 49-run defeat in the opening match against defending champions India Blue, India Red effected two changes in their side, replacing stumper Parthiv Patel and Vinay Kumar by Wridhman Saha and Faiz Fazal.
India Green started on a cautious note, ensuring no loss of early wickets. Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Naman Ojha took time to settle down but once they got used to the low and slow character of the pitch, runs started flowing freely off their bats.
Most of the runs came square off the wickets with 25-year-old Madhya Pradesh batsman Ojha preferring the off-side and Dhawan the opposite.
In between, Ojha lifted Reds captain Badrinath over the straight field for a sweetly timed six and then cut the next ball to point boundary for a four.
Dhawan showed good ability in pulling the ball to the fence.
The duo did an excellent job for the team by putting up 102 runs in 19.2 overs before Dhawan fell for 45, top-edging Mohnish Parmar to the short fine-leg where Manoj Tiwary held an easy catch.
India Red's new-ball attack lacked direction and bite. Both Pravin Kumar and L Balaji were punished by the opposition openers more often than not.
With the cloud cover getting thicker, lights were switched on after the end of 18th over.
The departure of Dhawan could not affect the smooth going of the Green innings as new man Suresh Raina adopted the same strategy of wait, watch and then go for runs. It resulted in another healthy partnership that produced 95 runs for the second wicket.
The association between Ojha and Raina ended when the former lost patience to lose his wicket. He escaped narrowly when his lofted drive off Chawla fell just short of a fielder at long-on.
Unfazed, Ojha pulled the next ball to the mid-wicket fence where Faiz Fazal took a tumbling catch. Ojha became the third batsman in the current tournament to miss a century narrowly.
The exit of Ojha witnessed a complete turn-around in the game as the next seven wickets fell in addition of only 63 runs.
Young leg-spinner Piyush Chawla was the most successful of India Red bowlers, bagging three wickets for 50 runs.