Blue meets Red in Challenger Series opener

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Cuttack, Oct 22 (UNI) Defending champions India Blue will meet India Red in the opening match of the Challenger Series for NKP Salve Trophy at the Barabati Stadium here tomorrow.

With the senior stars on their way out and the six-match ODI series against England round the corner, the Challenger Series has assumed importance.

The four-match series, involving three teams (India Green is the third side), will be an ideal opportunity for discards and hopefuls to perform well and stake claims for inclusion in the National side.

''The day-night Challenger Series will also be a platform to prepare well for the home series against England,'' said Dav Whatmore, in-charge of defending champions India Blue and the Director of Operations of the National Cricket Academy.

India Blue will be favourites to retain the trophy. The presence of larger number of star players including skipper Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthapa, Irfan Pathan, Dinesh Karthik and Virat Kohli gives them a distinct edge over the other two sides in the fray.

Yuvraj himself admitted that he was eyeing for a double hundred in the tournament. ''My form has not been that good in recent times.

Therefore, I am aiming to score a double hundred and bounce back into form,'' said the dashing left-hander after a three-hour-long practice session earlier in the day.

Led by S Badrinath, India Red bank on batsmen Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwai, stumper Parthiv Patel, seamers Pravin Kumar, L Balaji and leggie Piyush Chawla to win matches here.

India Red and India Green also sweated it out under lights for nearly three hours. However, none of the two sides could give any idea about the their composition for the opening match. ''Players came together only yesterday evening. We had no time to do so,'' explained Whatmore.

But after seeing the new track at Barabati, Yuvraj said it would offer good bounce. He and Whatmore were unanimous in their opinion that the opening tie will be high-scoring contest.

Teams : India Blue: Yuvaraj Singh (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Robin Uthappa, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Ravinder Singh, Irfan Pathan, Yogesh Takawale (wk), Ashok Dinda, Pradeep Sangwan, Chetanya Nanda, Arjun Yadav, Siddarth Trivedi, R Ashwin.

India Red: S Badrinath (capt), M Vijay, F Fazal, Manoj Tiwary, Rohit Sharma, Jaydev Shah, Abhishek Nayar, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Praveen Kumar, L Balaji, Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Monish Parmar, Parthiv Patel (wk).

UNI XC GL BD2342

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