Abhinav Mukund smashed a sparkling century as India Red registered a comprehensive five-wicket victory over India Blue in the opening match of the NKP Salve Challenger Series in Nagpur on Monday.
Mukund (127) held one end for most part of the India Red's chase of the 275-run target, after his side was reduced to 15 for two in the second over, openers Shikhar Dhawan (3) and Gautam Gambhir (11) departing early.
Coming at one-down, at the team's score of six for one, Mukund stitched two substantial partnerships -- 71 with Ashok Menaria (19) for the fourth wicket and 147 with wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha (65 not out) for the fifth wicket from 26.1 overs -- to take India Red to victory with 15 balls to spare at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha.
Mukund, who struck 10 fours from the 133 balls he faced, found an able ally in Saha, as the duo took the match away from India Red's grasp with a solid batting display after coming together in the 21st over.
Saha's 80-ball unbeaten innings included just three fours.
India Red skipper Gambhir, who will be playing couple of round-robin matches in order to gear up for ODI series against England, fell cheaply, bowled by Pradeep Sangwan after facing six balls. His opening partner, Dhawan, was the first to go, dismissed by Irfan Pathan off the fifth ball of the innings.
Yusuf Pathan and Maneria contributed 22 and 19 respectively, and it was left to Mukund and Saha to score the bulk of the runs to win the match.
Mukund was out in the 47th over, with just 12 runs away from the target, and Saha ensured that there was no hiccup as India Red scored 275 for five.
For India Blue, Sangwan was the most successful bowler, taking three wickets for 61 runs, while Irfan Pathan and Pragyan Ojha chipped in with a wicket apiece.
This is the first domestic limited-overs tournament being played under the new ICC rules, where two new balls are being used from two ends in each innings.
Earlier, a gritty 56 by skipper Subramanium Badrinath and a quickfire half century from young Mandeep Singh helped India Blue post a competitive 274 for eight after they were put in to bat.
The find of IPL-4, Paul Valthaty, playing his first major List A match (second in his career), was in attacking mood, scoring 36 off only 39 deliveries, inclusive of seven boundaries. He played and missed a few, but was severe on Rudra Pratap Singh, who looked woefully out of form.
RP wasn't brought back for a second spell after he leaked 31 runs in his first four overs. He repeatedly tried to use the short ball and Valthaty would rock back to pull him through the mid-wicket region. The opener was unfortunately run-out after a mix-up with Murali Vijay (26).
Vijay looked totally out of sorts as he tried to hit over mid-on but the ball ballooned to Shikhar Dhawan at backward point.
Dinesh Karthik (13) was done in by a Piyush Chawla googly, but Badrinath and Manish Pandey (45) steadied the ship with a fourth wicket opartnership that yielded 81 runs.
While Badrinath, who played 80 deliveries, was happy to take the singles and twos, Pandey played some audacious aerial strokes, including a six off left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt.
Pandey was dismissed five shy of a well-deserved half century when he miscued a flighted delivery from Bhatt to Menaria. Badrinath followed Pandey as he was stumped off Bhatt's bowling.
Mandeep, who smashed 50 off only 38 balls, hit a couple of big sixes off Pankaj Singh and Jaidev Unadkat respectively.
P Valthaty run out 36
M Vijay c Dhawan b Pankaj 26
S Badrinath st Saha b Bhatt 56
D Karthik b Chawla 13
M Pandey c Menaria b Bhatt 45
M Singh C Mukund b Pankaj 50
I Pathan lbw Chawla 14
A Mishra c Menaria b Unadkat 6
P Sangwan not out 16
P Ojha not out 2
Extras: (lb-3, w-7) 10
Total: (For 8 wkts; 50 overs) 274
Fall of wickets: 1-50, 2-78, 3-98, 4-179, 5-185, 6-219, 7-241, 8-255
Bowling: RP Singh 4-0-31-0, Unadkat 8-0-56-1, Bhatt 10-1-48-2, Pankaj Singh 6-0-38-2, Y Pathan 10-0-44-0, Menaria 2-0-12-0, Chawla 10-0-42-2.
S Dhawan c Pandey b Pathan 3
G Gambhir b Sangwan 11
A Mukund c Karthik b Sangwan 127
Y Pathan c Badrinath b Sangwan 22
A Menaria c Karthik b Ojha 19
W Saha not out 65
P Chawla not out 8
Extras: (lb-5, w-14, nb-1) 20
Total: (For 5 wickets in 47.3 overs) 275
Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-15, 3-45, 4-116, 5-263
Bowling: I Pathan 8.3-1-51-1, P Sangwan 9-0-61-3, P Ojha 10-0-61-1, Y Krishanatry 4-0-19-0, A Mishra 10-0-47-0, S Badrinath 4-0-22-0, M Vijay 2-0-9-0.