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India Seniors produced a strong performance in the final to defeat India 'B' by three wickets and win the Challenger Series limited-overs tournament, for the N K P Salve Trophy, at the PCA stadium in Mohali on Thursday night.
After bundling out India 'B' for a modest 177, the Seniors rode on a robust knock by Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan, who was later named man of the match, to score the required runs with 11 overs to spare.
India 'B' seamer S Sreesant, who picked three wickets for 32 runs off nine overs in the final, was adjudged man of the series.
It was sort of coming of age for Vidyut, who hit 87 from 107 balls, inclusive of 15 fours.
His stroke-filled innings more than made up for the early loss of Sachin Tendulkar [Images] who, after a run-a-ball 22 comprising four fours, was consumed by a googly from 16-year-old Piyush Chawla [Images], who went on to finish with three wickets for 49 runs off ten overs.
The summit clash turned out to be a damp squib with India 'B' falling flat with a dismal performance that came on the heels of a stunning victory over India 'A' on Thursday.
Perhaps the task of sustaining the level over three back to back matches -- they had played the Seniors in the league encounter on Tuesday -- proved to be too much for the team, comprising mainly aspiring youngsters.
They suffered a top and lower collapse, with seven of their batsmen falling for single digit scores.
They owed their total to a 50-run sixth-wicket partnership between the diminutive Parthiv Patel and Ravikant Shukla.
Patel, who had struck a quickfire 53 in a losing cause against the Seniors in the league encounter, batted once again with grit to score 39 off 62 balls with six fours.
Shukla played a mature knock in support of Patel before he himself ran out of partners to remain unbeaten on 26.
Zaheer Khan [Images] (3-43) did the early damage while left-arm spinner Murali Kartik [Images] (5-29) sliced through the tail with wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh claiming four dismissals including three stumpings.
There was little sign of the top order collapse to come when Robin Uthappa struck Zaheer Khan's first ball of the match to midwicket fence.
When the Karnataka lad flicked him off the pads for one more boundary to squareleg, it seems the Baroda paceman was yet to come out of the 'final jinx' that gripped him in 2003 World Cup.
But Zaheer got a boost when Uthappa drove lavishly at a wide delivery straight to Mohammad Kaif at short extra cover.
Zaheer struck his second blow two overs later when Sridharan Sriram tried to turn him to the on side and ended up with a leading edge to Venugopala Rao.
Skipper Dinesh Mongia's cut off Harbhajan Singh [Images] landed in J P Yadav's hand at point before Yusuf Pathan tried to off glance the off-spinner and was caught at slip by Sachin Tendulkar.
Zaheer then had Shikhar Dhawan who meddled an away going delivery to be caught behind.
Parthiv Patel would not have lasted long enough had Zaheer not overstepped when his well directed bouncer found the left hander's outside edge on its way to the wicketkeeper.
But the Gujarat batsman played without any inhibition. He was particularly severe on Harbhajan Singh, who frequently erred in length.
Patel's innings, however, came to an unfortunate end after 62 balls when he was adjudged leg before wicket to Murali Kartik although TV replays showed a deflection off the bat before the ball hit the pad.
His dismissal triggered another collapse with Sunny Singh and Piyush Chawla falling in the space of 14 balls for the addition of seven runs.
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