Cuttack, Oct 24 (UNI) Naman Ojha's polished 96 helped India Green to set a daunting target of 261 against India Red in the second match of the NKP Salve Trophy Challenger Series at Barabati Stadium here today.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, India Green played with a plan and purpose to compile a healthy total of 260 for nine in 50 overs.
Solid partnerships between Ojha and Shikhar Dhawan (45) for the opening wicket and then between Ojha and Suresh Raina (58) for the second wicket took India Green to a commanding position before a late-order collapse saw them losing seven wickets just for 63 runs.
Facing a must win situation after their 49-run defeat in the opening match against defending champions India Blue yesterday, India Red effected two changes in their side, replacing stumper Parthiv Patel and Vinay Kumar by Wridhman Saha and Faiz Fazal.
In the afternoon, the match started under a cloud cover caused by low pressure in the Bay of Bengal.
India Green started on a cautious note, ensuring no loss of early wickets. Opening duo Dhawan and Ojha took time to settle down but once they got used to the low and slow character of the pitch, runs started flowing off their bats.
Most of the runs came square off the wickets with 25-year-old Madhya Pradesh batsman Ojha preferring the off side and 22-year-old Dhawan the opposite.
In between Ojha lifted Reds captain Badrinath straight for a sweetly timed six and then cut the next ball to point boundary for a four.
Dhawan showed good ability in pulling the ball to the fence. The duo did an excellent job for the team by putting up 102 runs in 19.2 overs before Dhawan fell for 45, top-edging Mohnish Parmar to the short fine-leg where Manoj Tiwari held an easy catch.
India Red's new-ball attack lacked direction and the bite. Both Pravin Kumar and L Balaji were punished the openers more often than not.
With the cloud cover getting thicker, lights were switched on after the end of 18th over.
The departure of Dhawan could not affect the smooth going of the Green innings as new man Raina adopted the same strategy of wait, watch and then go for runs. It resulted in another healthy partnership that produced 95 runs for the second wicket.
The association between Ojha and Raina ended when the former lose patience to lost his wicket. He escaped narrowly when his lofted drive off Chawla fell just short of a fielder at long-on.
Unfazed, Ojha pulled the next ball to the mid-wicket fence where Faiz Fazal took a tumbling catch. Ojha became the third batsman in the current tournament to miss a century narrowly.
But his 130-ball knock of 96 was the highest score so far in the tourney.
The exit of Ojha witnessed a complete turn-around in the game as the next seven wickets fell in addition of only 63 runs. All the seven batsmen got out while trying to go for big shots or quick singles. Among them Raina, who had scored a double century here in a Ranji Trophy match against Orissa last year, completed his half-century before being caught by Tiwary off Chawla at long-on.
Young leg-spinner Piyush Chawla was the most successful India Red bowlers, bagging three wickets for 50 runs.
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