Yuvraj Singh breezed his way to a 56-ball 84 and gave the national selectors another timely reminder of his worth, even as Abhishek Nayar slammed a 39-ball 75, to take India Blue to the final of the NKP Salve Challenger Series with a 11-run win over India Red in Indore on Friday.
Put in to bat, India Blue posted an imposing 345 for four before dismissing Red for 334 in 49.5 overs at the Holkar Cricket stadium.
The match was as good as over for India Red with the Yusuf Pathan-led side needing 38 in the last two overs. However, Umesh Yadav and Shabhaz Nadeem hit a flurry of boundaries to keep hopes alive.
They collected 15 runs off Bhuvneshwar Kumar to bring the equation down to 23 off six balls. R Vinay Kumar was smashed for a six and a four before Yadav lost the steam.
Abhinav Mukund top-scored with 83 off 86 balls, hitting nine fours and a six, while Smit Patel scored 67 but retired hurt after facing 83 balls and striking six fours.
Kedar Jadhav smashed 49 off 40 balls with the help of five fours and a six.
The chase only got difficult when Yusuf Pathan made a hasty exit, falling to Yuvraj for 1.
Ishank Jaggi (34) led a spirited lower-order resistance but the target proved to be a little too much for them.
For India Blue, Vinay Kumar picked four wickets, but conceded 76 runs in 10.5 overs, while Iresh Saxena and Piyush Chawla took two wickets each.
Earlier, both Yuvraj and opener P Akshat Reddy scored 84 runs each, but the left-handed skipper enjoyed a strike rate of over 150 as he toyed with the India Red bowlers, hitting 11 boundaries, including five sixes.
Reddy's knock came off 96 balls and was studded with five fours and two shots over the fence.
Abhishek Nayar also tormented the rival bowlers with a fiery unbeaten 75-run knock that came off just 39 balls.
Yuvraj and Nayar plundered 151 runs in just 13 overs in their fourth-wicket partnership, which ended with the former's run-out in the last over of the innings.
Now Yuvraj has one century and three half-centuries in his last five matches since being handed a career lifeline by the BCCI with inclusion in India ‘A’ team for the series against the West Indies ‘A’.
Yusuf Pathan's decision to invite the Blues to bat seemed all right as they had kept the rival batsmen on a leash and had also scalped Naman Ojha cheaply at the start.
However, that rejoicing period was short as Reddy found a good partner in Manish Pandey. The pair not only negated the early strike but soon put their side in the driver's seat with their determined and fearless batting.
They raised a 143-run stand for the second wicket, setting the stage for Yuvraj and Nayar to rip apart the bowlers in the slog overs.
The two batsmen hammered the bowlers to all around the park as India Blue scored 162 runs in the last 15 overs. Nayar hit six four and four sixes in his knock.
None of the Red bowlers could make an impact but medium fast bowler Suraj Yadav was most expensive as he bled 84 runs in his 10-over quota.
Image: Yuvraj Singh