India Blue, powered by a tidy bowling performance, registered a comprehensive eight-wicket victory over India Red to retain the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy in Cuttack on Sunday.
Bengal pacer Ashok Dinda (2 for 23) and Irfan Pathan (2 for 30) mesmerised the Red batsmen with fiery first spells to give Blue a spectacular start.
Gujarat seamer Siddharth Trivedi (3 for 23) and Tamil Nadu off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (2 for 32) carried on the good work as Red, having opted to bat, were dismissed for 151 in 43 overs.
Chasing a modest 152 for victory, Blue got off to a watchful start, with the first two overs fetching six runs. But, in the third over, Ajinkya Rahane started to explode with two back-to-back boundaries.
Robin Uthappa too joined in the act and fired on all cylinders to bring an early Diwali at the packed Barabati Stadium.
Fifteen runs from Piyush Chawla's first over meant that the target was just round the corner as Blue raced to 78 in 13 overs.
The opening duo put on 93 runs in 19.3 overs before the Karnataka batsman, who emerged the tournament's top-scorer with 216 runs, departed four runs short of a half-century. Uthappa, who had already hit five boundaries and two sixes, attempted another heave off Chawla, but was caught by Murali Vijay at the mid-on.
Their first wicket partnership, which came in no time, took the final out of Red's hands.
With 59 required from 35 overs, Virat Kohli came into the middle and soon matched Rahane shot for shot.
Rahane contributed a match-winning 53 in his two partnerships with Uthappa and later Kohli before being trapped lbw by Mohnish Parmar.
When skipper Yuvraj Singh walked into the middle, it was just to complete the formality.
The Punjab batsman hit a six and scored the winning runs with a double as Blue defended the title.
For Reds, Praveen Kumar and captain Subramaniam Badrinath salvaged some pride in the middle, as their innings looked to fold up below 100.
Blue's first six wickets fell for 72 and when it looked like the end was near, Badrinath (56) and Praveen (35) steadied the ship with a 66-run partnership for the seventh wicket.
Included in place of Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv Patel disappointed yet again, departing without opening his account.
Unbeaten centurion in their last match, Rohit Sharma too followed, with Dinda taking the prized scalp -- his second -- as the score read a dismal 10 for two in 3.5 overs.
Vijay looked fluent as he tried to build on a partnership with his Tamil Nadu captain, Badrinath. But just when the duo were looking to break loose, Trivedi put a premature end to their 37-run third-wicket partnership.
Badrinath remained a mute spectator as Jayadev Shah (4), Abhishek Nayar (4) and Piyush Chawla (3) departed in quick succession.
Parthiv Patel lbw b Dinda 0
Murali Vijay c Kaarthick b Trivedi 30
Rohit Sharma c Kohli b Dinda 1
S Badrinath b Ashwin 56
Jaydev Shah b Trivedi 4
Abhishek Nayar c Kohli b Trivedi 4
Piyush Chawla c Nanda b Ashwin 3
Praveen Kumar lbw b Nanda 35
R Vinay Kumar not out 7
Mohnish Parmar b Pathan 0
Laxmipathy Balaji lbw b Pathan 5
Extras: (B-1, LB-1, W-3, NB-1) 6
Total: (All out in 43 overs) 151
Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-10, 3-47, 4-53, 5-67, 6-72, 7-138, 8-140, 9-141
Bowling: Pathan 9-1-30-2, Dinda 8-1-23-2, Trivedi 7-0-23-3, Ashwin 9-2-32-2, Nanda 6-1-21-1, Yuvraj 4-0-20-0.
Ajinkya Rahane lbw b Parmar 53
Robin Uthappa c Vijay b Chawla 46
Virat Kohli not out 35
Yuvraj Singh not out 8
Extras: (LB-1, W-9) 10
Total: (for 2 wkts in 25.4 ovs) 152
Fall of wickets: 1-93, 2-133.
Bowling: Praveen 6-0-28-0, Balaji 4-0-20-0, Vinay Kumar 5-1-34-0, Chawla 7-0-44-1, Parmar 3.4-0-25-1.