Challenger Trophy 2006 - Blues Vs Reds - First Half Notes
Story of the first session
Venu Rao won the toss and elected to bat. The Reds left out at the two all-rounders (Tej Pal and Raghu) and went in with 5 regular bowlers. The Blues left out Wasim Jaffer and Rudra Pratap Singh (probably given a rest after his match-winning performance against Sialkot) and gave young Jadeja an opportunity to field with the senior side.
The Willow Version
Someone seems to have told Robin Uthappa that to get into the Indian ODI team as an opener one needs to do everything that Sehwag does at the crease and more. And that includes upper-cutting an opening bowler over the third man fence. Robin perished (10 off 8 balls) trying to do just that very early in the innings on a very good batting surface.
Gautam Gambhir was a bit slow off the blocks, got dropped in the slips by a generous Dravid early on and then settled down to play a very impressive innings. The remarkable aspect of the innings was the ease with which he started picking the gaps in the second half of his knock. He got runout going for a needless second in the 43rd over, but not before making 110 off 119 deliveries with ten 4s and one 6.
Subramaniam Badrinath played a few classy shots for boundaries, a beautifully timed straight drive down the ground and a couple of brutal square cuts that cannoned into the hoardings. He tried cutting in the air one time too many and got out (15 out of 20 balls) just when he was looking good for a big score.
Venugopal Rao started off really well with some lovely hits to the fence, at one point he had 6 boundaries in his 28 and then somehow got pinned down in the middle overs. He ended up making 67 off 101 deliveries and fell while trying to push the scoring rate. Calling him selfish for the way he played would be a bit too harsh, but as a captain a lot more was expected of him. He did stitch together a huge partnership with Gambhir, but one would have liked to see him bat a bit more aggressively in the middle overs.
Rohit Sharma came into the game with very huge expectations and he did well in a neat little cameo. Very elegant and very straight-battish in his approach, Rohit first lent good support to Gambhir and then after Gambhir's dismissal, started improvising. He fell (33 off 29 balls) in the 48th over trying to hoick Munaf out of the park.
Dinesh Kaarthick hit Bhajji for a couple of good boundaries square off the wicket and selflessly got out (11 off 9 balls) cross-batting an uppish fulltoss. Ramesh Powar paid the penalty for trying to negotiate a Munaf yorker from the crease without exercising his feet. The rest of the batsmen (the second string tail-enders are no better than the first stringers) tried putting bat to ball and managed to push the score to 280.
The Leather Version
Irfan Pathan picked up three wickets, but they were all gifted by the batsmen. There wasn't too much swing for Irfan with the new ball and given the pace with which he is bowling these days, it was fairly easy for the batsmen to negotiate him.
Munaf Patel was easily the pick of the India Blue bowlers. His first three overs costed 21 runs, but he came back well and was excellent in the slog overs. The tail-enders found it really hard to get him away and Patel ended up with three wickets for 49 runs in his 10 overs.
Agarkar was his usual self, bowling a few good deliveries interweaved with a few hit-me balls. He did bowl well in the death overs. In Agarkar and Patel, India now has a fairly decent pair of bowlers who can take care of the slam-bang overs.
There were no wickets for the slow bowlers. Harbhajan went for 58 off his ten. Mongia, Sehwag and Jadeja shared the 5th bowler's quota and went for 60 runs between them. All in all, it was a below par performance by the senior side. If not for their performance in the last 8 overs where they picked up 7 wickets, they would have ended chasing a 320+ score.